Broward schools billed toll violations
Broward County schools have been charged nearly $10,000 for toll violations from school buses that used the Florida Turnpike as far back as 2009.
The state sent 34 school district toll violations to private collections agencies in November 2017, and the cases still remain open nearly a year later.
Four tolls from 2013 originally ranged from 75 cents to $1.25 each. Now they’ve ballooned to $213 each, due to court costs and late fees.
Thirty other tolls were from
2009. Online records don’t show how much the school buses were supposed to pay, but normal toll rates then were $1.50 or less. The state says the district now owes
$289 for each one.
The total bill for the district: $9,553 for 34 tolls. The total cost would have likely been less than $50 had they been paid on time.
“I’m at a loss for words. That is unbelievable that this slipped through the cracks,” School Board member Robin Bartleman said, adding that Superintendent Robert Runcie “needs to look into this immediately and rectify it.”
Runcie couldn’t be reached for comment, but a spokeswoman for the district said at least some of the fees were improperly charged to the district. Officials are asking for more details from SunPass, which manages the prepaid toll program for the Turnpike.
“The District’s Student Transportation and Fleet Services Department works closely with SunPass to resolve all verifiable toll violations,” district spokeswoman Cathleen Brennan said. “Some toll violations initially attributed to Broward County Public Schools have been overturned after research revealed the vehicles belonged to other agencies.”
The school district said the four toll violations from 2013 were errors. One school bus was cited for not paying a
$1.25 toll at the Turnpike’s Cypress Creek Plaza in Fort Lauderdale three times in August 2013. A second bus was cited for not paying a 75-cent toll in early September.
However, the school district said both vehicles had been registered to the district SunPass prepaid toll account since Jan. 1, 2013.
“No violations should have occurred after [the buses were] added to the District’s SunPass account,” Brennan said. “The district is reaching out to SunPass regarding this issue.”
The district could not explain the 30 violations from
They involved four buses, but the district said the vehicle license plate numbers listed on state records are incomplete, leaving off the last three digits.
“The district is unable to research this without the complete license number,” Brennan said. She said the district’s transportation department “is reaching out to SunPass to request that it research this violation and provide the district with additional information.”
Brennan said the district generates a purchase order every year to pay its monthly SunPass invoices.
If the district receives a violation for a vehicle that has already been registered, “the district works with SunPass to address the issue.”
But neither the district nor the state could explain why most of the tolls remained unresolved for nearly a decade.
The school district isn’t the only the government agency to pile up a huge bill from unpaid tolls.
A 2012 auditor’s report showed Miami-Dade County Commission owed $637,708 in fines and penalties. Had the tolls been paid on time, the amount would have been about $20,000, the county commission’s auditor wrote. The audit said the county was negotiating with the state to reduce the charge.
While the state exempts marked law enforcement and emergency vehicles from tolls, most government vehicles, including school buses, are required to pay them.