Feeling the squeeze of a constricted budget, Alabama’s chief enforcement officer announced that 31 of the state’s 78 driver’s license offices will be closed, starting October 1.
Affected centers include:
- The Russellville office on North Jackson Avenue.
- The Moulton office on Market Street.
- As well as offices located in the counties of:
- St. Clair.
It remains to be seen how, when, or if the centers will be reopened. In the interim, residents can turn to the Internet for certain functions performed by the offices, including regular license renewals and examination scheduling. Certain things must be done in person, including:
- Receiving an initial Alabama license.
- Renewing a suspended license.
- Taking the license exam.
Still, the part-time, rural centers being closed account for less than 5% of annual Alabama license transactions, with the busiest location servicing just 2,000 people in 2014, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), the state group responsible for running the licensing centers.
Reasons for Closures
Spurring the problem are deep cuts in the ALEA’s budget—part of an $82 million reduction in the overall state budget for fiscal year 2016.
While the Alabama legislature approved of a cigarette tax to offset some cuts this coming fiscal year, it rejected a call by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley for larger tax increases, which would have further alleviated the dwindling budget.
In the wake of the state budget’s approval, the governor’s office had been warning of the potential closings for months. It’s also been reported that there could be more closings to come.
According to AL.com, the next set of driver’s license centers could shut their doors on January 1, 2016. That would leave only 12 of the facilities open until the next round of cuts, which would likely come in March of 2016. It was unclear which offices would be targeted for these phases.
All told, the maneuver would leave only four driver’s license centers open come next March – one each in Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery and Mobile, according to the Alabama.com report.
That leaves just a handful of offices to deal with the estimated 40,000 people who will require new driver’s licenses, examinations, and renewal of a suspended license next year, the report went on.
Other Affected Agencies
Those hoping to be issued a new license aren’t the only ones who will be affected by the budgetary limitations. The ALEA, which oversees a conglomerate of state public safety agencies, also plans on laying off 99 highway patrol troopers, 25 special agents, and 8 capitol police aviation and fleet management staff, and closing 13 trooper posts throughout the state, among other cuts, according to WBRC news in Alabama.
Beginning operations last January, the ALEA is the product of a merger between 13 state law enforcement departments. It was allocated a budget of about $45 million for fiscal year 2016. The group’s top man, Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier, has argued that the ALEA could function optimally with an annual budget of $55 million. He has argued that just one of the agencies the group now runs, the Department of Public Safety, was given a budget of $54 million prior to the ALEA’s creation.