According to Scott Clements, Gordon County tax commissioner, his department has only sold seven specialty tags between May 2010 and mid-January.
Last summer the Georgia Legislature passed House Bill 1055 which added a $35 renewal fee for holders of most specialty plates.
Prior to this change, specialty tag holders paid a one time fee of $25 to buy the license plate, and then paid the yearly $20 renewal fee that all vehible owners must pay in addition to the ad valorem tax for their vehicle.
Under this new law, specialty tag holders will be required to pay an annual tag renewal fee of $35 to keep their specialty plate.
This new increase is not costing Gordon County anything, said Clements, because the county only receives one dollar per specialty tag issued.
“The real loser is the state,” he said, because so many drivers are choosing not to purchase specialty tags.
In addition to increased fees, costs have been applied to specialty tags that used to be free, like amateur radio operator tags.
The cost to the state to make a license plate is $1.95, said Clements, and counties around the state, including Gordon County, have already run out of standard tags recently and have had to order more from the state.
The state is also not allowing the tag office to retain a stock of specialty tags, Clements explained. Instead, those wishing to order a specialty plate must first get a paper tag from the tag office and then have their tag mailed to them by the state. The cost to the state to mail each tag is $1.56.
“We have beaucoups of wildlife tags, but the state is maintaining most of the inventory,” he said.
According to Clements, the organizations hurting the most from this change are the wildlife programs.
Prior to this change, $22 of the $25 fee to buy a bald eagle or hummingbird specialty tag was returned to the wildlife program. The system has now changed so that only $10 from the sale of each new plate and $10 from each renewal will be designated for the wildlife or wildflower programs.
“The Department of Revenue is not being funded properly, and it may change,” said Clements. “We’ve got a new governor and a new (Department of Revenue) commissioner.”
Some specialty tags like ones for the University of Georgia already had annual renewal fees, according to Clements, and there are still free tags, like those for veterans.
Citizens are also able to purchase $1 stickers displaying “In God We Trust” to replace the county sticker on their license plates, said Clements. This new option was implemented at the first of the year, and Gordon has a supply ready, he said.