By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia
Some mobile home owners in Franklin County will now have to make sure their homes are displaying the proper property tax decals or face stiff fines.
At their regular meeting Monday evening, the Board of Commissioners voted to approve an amended ordinance regarding how property taxes are paid by owners of mobile homes who do not own the land their home sits on.
Last month, Franklin County Tax Commissioner Bobby Martin said about 15% of the more than 1,500 such homes, known as pre-bill homes, in the county are behind on their property tax payments. He said using decals would help the county keep better track of those tax payments.
Any pre-bill mobile home owner who did not pay for a current year’s decal would be issued a citation and pay a fine of up to $200. But the home owner could also face jail time, if they failed to appear in Magistrate Court to pay that fine.
Commissioner Clint Harper again expressed his concern about that potential outcome for a mobile home owner. Harper said that could devastate someone who is likely already enduring financial hardship and he suggested the law might be discriminatory.
“You’re talking about, in most cases, very poor people,” Harper said. “So in reality, somebody could go to jail for not paying their property taxes if they own a mobile home. This does not apply to people in stick-built homes, this is only for mobile homes. Next time, we may say, ‘well let’s have a similar structure for homes or property. I just think there’s got to be a better way.”
But Commissioner Jeff Jacques noted other counties had similar ordinances and no one had ever been thrown in jail for non-payment.
“I’m not concerned with what other counties are doing, I’m concerned with what we’re doing here and now and I cannot in good conscious, vote for this if there’s a potential someone might end up in jail for not paying his property tax,” Harper replied.
In addition to the decal amendment for pre-bill homes, the amended ordinance will also raise the inspection fee for all mobile homes, according to county manager John Phillips. Phillips said the new fee is $100 across the board.
“At one point, when we were based on the age of the home, some of the inspection requirements were different,” Phillips said. “We had a $75 inspection fee for a new manufactured home because we did less inspection and we had a $100 inspection fee for pre-owned manufactured homes because we did more inspection. Under this proposed revision, we would do the same inspections for both types of homes. So, I would like to suggest we go with one set fee.”
After hearing comments from the board and from Phillips, commission chair Thomas Bridges said he liked the amended ordinance.
“I personally feel like it’s a good ordinance and puts some teeth into the validity of the ordinance and for those latent taxes,” Bridges said. “And I personally don’t think we will see anybody going to jail because there are too many other avenues we could take as Mr. Martin pointed out.”
Bridges then called for the vote and it passed 4-1 with Commissioner Harper voting against.