MANATEE — Fees for driver’s licenses, and motor vehicle and boat registrations are doubling beginning Sept. 1, but there is still time to save money.
Those with birthdays three months out can renew car and boat registrations in advance, as well as renew for up to two years at the current fee rate, as long as the registration comes before Sept. 1. For example, those with birthdays from August to November can renew through Aug. 31.
Some of the services that will cost more are driver’s license renewals, address changes on licenses, title transfers, duplicate titles, or car, boat and mobile home renewals.
Fees will go up approximately 55 to 65 percent for registrations, 150 percent for titles and 70 to 110 percent for driver’s licenses.
With state and local governments strapped financially by the recession, lawmakers established the new fee structure this year as a way to avoid raising other taxes. Officials say the changes make Florida’s fee structure more comparable to that of other states.
It has been 20 years since the last driver’s license increase. In addition, most registration fees haven’t been raised in 26 years, and title fees have for the most part been stable for 25 years, Manatee County Tax Collector Ken Burton said in a news release.
“Although the new fees were not established by my office, it is my office who is responsible for collecting them,” Burton said. “We are trying to get the word out for people whose renewals are due in the months of September through November. If they renew now, they will be able to renew at the current rate. If they wait until after Sept. 1, they will be paying the higher fees.”
Some Manatee County residents said they won’t sweat the fee increase.
“The state has to do what it has to do to cover all their expenses,” said Bradenton resident Pam Burton. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”
Others, however, think the timing for a fee increase couldn’t be worse.
Schools are almost in session, and children whose parents are struggling financially might find themselves without proper school supplies or perhaps having to wear tattered clothing, they said.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Bradenton resident Hilda Murphy, who Monday helped the Salvation Army feed 273 people in need of lunch. “There are many people who can’t pay an extra $20 for a license. I think it will lead to a vicious cycle the first two years.”
That cycle, Murphy said, will begin with those who may have to go a month without amenities such as shampoo or toothpaste. But that may be just the beginning of some worse consequences to these higher fees.
“Those who can’t afford it, they’ll drive without it,” Murphy said. “And now they’ll go to jail and then we’re paying $60,000 to $70,000 to support them.”
Driver’s licenses can be renewed up to 18 months in advance. Changes of address can be updated at the lower rate by accessing www.tax collector.com before Sept. 1. Division of Motor Vehicle fee increases are listed at www.taxcollector.com/newfees.asp.
Nick Walter, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 745-7013.