TAMPA — Hillsborough County residents who need to renew their driver’s license or get a license plate won’t be going to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles office after June of next year.
The state agency, which for many years was the only place to get driver’s licenses and license plates and take driving tests, has slowly been turning over those duties to tax collectors in most Florida counties.
Last month, the agency’s Carrollwood office was shuttered. And in two weeks, the DMV will close its office on Martin Luther King Boulevard, near Legends Field. That will leave only the highway agency’s Brandon office open, and it will close in June 2015.
The Florida Legislature passed a law in 2010 calling for county tax collectors to take over DMV driver’s license and license plate transactions in all Florida counties except Miami-Dade, Broward and Volusia.
Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden started preparing for the transition in 2011 when he moved his agency’s office in Floriland mall to a larger building with more parking near 30th Street and Bougainvillea Avenue. Soon after, the state closed its office in Lutz.
Anticipating closure of the Plant City DMV office, Belden expanded the tax collector office there in 2012. Also that year, Belden approached the state about taking over the DMV office on East Hillsborough Avenue near 30th Street. The state agreed and the tax collector’s office leases the building for $300 a month. On Monday, for the first time, the tax collector will start administering driving tests at at the Hillsborough Avenue site.
In April, Belden opened his largest office in a new building built on county government land at 3030 N. Falkenburg Road. The county government owns the land and leases it to the tax collector for a minimal amount. Belden said the money he will save on lease payments from closing his former Brandon office will cover the cost of the new building in four years.
He’s also excited the building has 275 parking spaces.
“I anticipate when the state closes down their office, I will have adequate parking,” Belden said.
The tax collector said he has found land on Anderson Road where he wants to build a new west-county office. The current office serving that area, at Waters Avenue and the Veterans Expressway, is crowded.
Because the state has gone to eight-year renewals on driver’s licenses, the number of people renewing is expected to dip in 2015 and 2016. It will pick up in 2017, and that’s when Belden hopes to have his new office on Anderson Road open.
Dale Hoffman, director of branch operations for the tax collector, said the DMV plans to gut and renovate its office on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and reopen it next year to house administrative staff.
The DMV office on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will continue giving driving tests for several months to give the tax collector some breathing room. Eventually, the county’s office on East Hillsborough will handle all driving tests in the county.
“We asked them can you keep that functioning as far as road testing because we need to get our arms around this and make sure we know what we’re doing,” Hoffman said. “We feel we’ll be ready and prepared Monday, but that would be a security blanket.”