Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fla. panther license plate trust likely to have $1.1 million deficit

Specialty license plates a drain on FWC

NBC2 News
Last updated on: 3/20/2007 7:02:42 PM

FORT MYERS: Specialty license plates don't seem to be so special anymore. People in the Southwest Florida have so many options to choose from when picking out tags for their cars – it's actually costing the agencies that depend on the money.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission currently has six different tags it benefits from. But officials with the agency say the sales are lacking so much, some of the trust funds they support are losing money by the millions.

"I think we offer 120 if you're talking all the tags," said Tammy Helmer of the Lee County Tax Collector's Office.

Officials say too many choices and not enough marketing have Florida Fish and Wildlife programs suffering. The manatee and panther trust funds are going bust because they're spending more money than the tag sales are bringing in.

"For fiscal year 2010-2011, we're predicting a $1.1 million deficit on the panther trust fund and a $1.4 million deficit for the manatee fund," said Ken Whittington of FWC.

But it's not that the tags aren't popular. In fact, the Florida Panther tag ranks number two on the list out of more than 100. But panther tag sales have dropped by more than 21,000 tags over the past four years and the manatee tags are down more than 26,000 tags.

Helmer says she agrees drivers are spreading the wealth in all directions.

"They do change because some people want this plate this year then one comes out that's more colorful and they want that," said Helmer.

Officials with FWC are planning on a new marketing campaign this year to boost tag sales. It includes more press and the introduction of extra decals if you buy a tag.

If the campaign doesn't help though, officials say over the next five years some programs will be cut.

No comments: