Georgia did not run out of standard automobile license plates, but it is handing out fewer to county governments than it used to, according to the state revenue department.

"We are not going to be running out of standard-issue plates or decals," said Reg Lansberry, a spokesman for the department.

"We have a vendor filling orders from us constantly," he said, adding that the state is "moving closer and closer to just-in-time deliveries."

Tax commissioners in Walker, Dade, Catoosa and Whitfield counties say they have run low or run out of many tags, including the annual renewal decals, in the past few weeks.

On Monday morning, Catoosa County was down to three standard-issue plates before receiving a shipment that afternoon. Whitfield County had to give out 150 temporary permits to drivers when it ran out of decals.

J.D. Grant, who oversees facilities and inventory for the Georgia Department of Revenue, said in an interview that the state used to hand out a six- to 12-month supply of plates and decals. The state's new "efficiency effort" will supply about two months worth at a time, he said. Tags and decals are produced by Georgia Correctional Industries in Telfair.

Mr. Grant sent an e-mail to tax commissioners across the state April 30 explaining the department's situation "and the already obvious impact on your business."

"Since the end of the calendar year ('09) DOR has been out of funding for the tag and decal production," he wrote.

"DOR has been pulling funds from other important operational areas within Motor Vehicles to keep the inventory flowing as much as possible," he added later. The e-mail says a new funding model in the 2011 fiscal year "will provide the adequate resources for the department to meet the needs of the constituents of Georgia."

He and Mr. Lansberry acknowledged that bins for handicap, antique and other specialty tags may be empty in many counties across the state but the state warehouse has them available if counties call to ask.


2 million: Approximate number of license plates distributed each year

$1.95: Cost per tag

10 million: Approximate number of decals distributed annually

$0.14: Cost per decal

Source: Georgia Department of Revenue

Mr. Grant said it's up to the local tax offices to keep their shelves stocked.

"Just to be clear, the counties have responsibilities for their locations," he said.

Told of the state's response, Whitfield County Tax Commissioner Danny Sane got mad.

"I've been doing this 18 years and I've never run out before, so something's wrong," Mr. Sane said.

When his stock ran low, he asked about more decals and plates but was told the state didn't have the funding for restocking, he said.

"That just kind of doesn't sit well with me," Mr. Sane said. "I don't think it's the tax commissioners, that's for sure."

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Counties running out of car tags

Article: Systems trim salaries, staff

Article: Whitfield officials struggle to balance budget