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Passport fees set to leap on Aug. 19

Rebekah Taylor found out four months ago that she would be traveling overseas to do missionary work, but she waited until yesterday to apply for a passport.

Her procrastination cost her an extra $35 to expedite the $60 passport, but it could have been worse.

Beginning Aug. 19, passport fees nationwide will take their biggest jump in years, The Blade has learned.

Applications for new passports will jump from $60 to $85 for those 16 and older, and from $40 to $70 for those under 16. The cost to renew a passport will increase from $40 to $55. The portion of those fees that is paid to the clerk of courts or post office that takes the application will double from $15 to $30.

Expediting a passport, which guarantees a turnaround time of three business days, will increase from $35 to $60.

The increased fees are the result of a cost-of-service study that showed the current fees established by the U.S. Department of State do not cover the cost of providing the service.

“They're big. I think they're way big,” Annetta Schmidt, manager of club training for Toledo-based AAA Northwest Ohio, said of the planned fee increases. “We've only had the information a short amount of time, but we're spreading it by word of mouth and putting it on our Web site.”

Miss Taylor, 21, of Weston was in the Wood County Clerk of Courts office in Bowling Green - the county's only passport office - yesterday to apply for a new passport. She leaves Aug. 2 for Galveston, Texas, and from there, will ship out for Israel or Guatemala to do missionary and disaster relief work.

“I've known since March or April that I was going but I put it off. I procrastinated. I didn't pay attention to how long it would take” to get a passport, she said.

Travel agents and those who process passport applications said that prospective travelers should procrastinate no longer.

“I have been calling people and telling them [to] do it now,” said Yvette Walker, a travel consultant with the AAA Travel Agency in Findlay. “They're good for 10 years. You might as well do it now.”

In Lucas County, passport applications are available at the main post office and at the postal branches at Franklin Park, Heatherdowns, Kenwood, Maumee, Oregon, and Sylvania. In most other area counties, only the clerk of courts office accepts the applications.

Rebecca Bhaer, clerk of courts in Wood County, which processes close to 1,000 passport applications a year, said she's encouraging residents to come in before Aug. 19. She has posted a sign about the new fees at the auto title office, which sees more foot traffic than the clerk's office at the courthouse.

“I think people are going to be surprised at how much passports [are going to] cost,” she said.

While overseas travel may have dropped off after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, those who process passport applications say that since then, more people are getting passports for travel to Canada and other countries that do not require them.

Jean Ziegler, clerk of courts in Defiance County, which processed 394 passport applications in the last 12 months, said many people want to be on the safe side when they leave the United States.

“You don't need a passport to go to places like Bermuda, but people going on cruises are coming in and saying they don't want to rely on their birth certificate. They don't want to get stuck somewhere,” she said.

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