NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – The new year will come with a new fee for some service providers across the state, leaving directors with little time to pay off the thousands of dollars in expenses.
Every permanent license plate in the state will expire after December 31, 2012, but not every driver will be able to apply for a new one. General Statute 20-84 describes a number of organizations that are no longer eligible for the one-time $6 plate. The lists includes non-governmental service providers like WAVE Transit and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority.
"We're kind of caught in a little bit of a loophole here," said WAVE's Executive Director Albert Eby. "Not a whole lot of thought was given when the legislation was passed."
Eby estimates the statute will add up to $35,000 to WAVE's already finalized budget. The number is so high, because the buses are being classified as ‘for hire' vehicles. A plate on a ‘for hire' vehicle costs $1.40 per 100 pounds instead of the $6 charge for a typical plate. The large shuttles account for more than 60% of WAVE vehicles, and they could result in a hefty cost to the authority.
"Obviously a big change," said Eby. "From nothing, unless we got new vehicles, to about $30,000 to $35,000 every year."
He said that the new plan seems counterproductive when the transit authority receives state and federal grants.
The bill for the CFPUA's 143 vehicles and 32 trailers could be higher, according to a staff report from the authority's most recent board meeting. Board members set aside $45,000 from a contingency fund to cover the last-minute mandate.
A spokesperson for the CFPUA said Tuesday that the sudden impact to the authority's budget will not affect customers. Eby echoed the statement for WAVE, but added some concern for better communication from the state agencies and legislators involved.
"We're certainly not seeing the urgency for the December 31st deadline," he said.
WAVE board members will discuss the new plates, along with a proposed rate increase, at their December 20 meeting.
Representatives from both the CFPUA and WAVE have reached out to the Attorney General's office for guidance.
NCDOT has issued 43,139 of the new permanent plates as of Tuesday, according to the DMV Communications Officer. She said of the roughly 100,000 permanent plate holders in North Carolina, about 10,000 will not be eligible for the new plates.
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