Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Mobile home owners may get break
A tangibles tax deal could help voter turnout.
By MIKE DONILA, Times Staff Writer
Published September 20, 2007
A little publicized provision in the proposed property tax amendment gives a tax break to mobile home owners and creates a potentially potent voting bloc.
The tax break could benefit close to a million Floridians, about 75,000 of them in the Tampa Bay area. And with polls showing tepid support for the super homestead amendment, their turnout could make a difference.
"This could have a much more dynamic effect," said University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith, "especially since this is a special election where there's not likely to be a large turnout."
Mobile home owners now pay the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles an annual registration fee, usually between $125 and $400 depending on the size of their mobile home. Then the county property appraiser's office sends them a tangible tax bill for any additions, like a storage shed, carport or porch.
If voters approve the amendment in January, mobile home owners would no longer have to pay the taxes for tangible personal property assessed at up to $25,000.
The exemption's total impact, including businesses, would end up affecting close to 1.3-million accounts, saving taxpayers $223-million, according to preliminary numbers released by the Florida Department of Revenue. Mobile homeowners across Tampa Bay would save a combined $1.9-million.
Mobile home owners are "a demographic that's ignored by elected officials and candidates," said Smith, a specialist on ballot measures. "But giving them something that helps their pocketbook, well, you may bring them out to the polls."
State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, just signed up to co-chair a nonprofit group supporting the proposal.
"The mobile home owners are going to play a major role in passing the amendment, absolutely," he said.
Sen. Majority Whip Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, said state leaders are counting on them to help pass the bill. "It's a tremendous benefit and when you have more money in your pocket, you help the economy grow."
Fasano and Haridopolos can count on the votes of Paul Myers and his neighbor, Barry Eddy, who live in the Down Yonder Village mobile home park in Largo.
Myers will take any tax break, even the $21 he would get from the exemption. So would Eddy, who lives on a fixed income. The amendment would save him $80.
"The elderly don't have pensions and we're living on Social Security, so any savings is greatly appreciated," said Eddy, a 65-year-old retired medical laboratory technician. "We're all totally running out of money, and it's difficult to get by."
Both men have their eyes on the Jan. 29 statewide referendum, now that they know there's something in it for them. Neither did, until talking to a reporter.
Most public attention has focused on the super exemption that would go to owners of homesteaded property. The provision that affects mobile home owners has gotten little ink, and even then, it has generally been characterized as a tax break for business.
This spring, however, Pasco Property Appraiser Mike Wells approached Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, about expanding it to include mobile home owners.
"It's a ridiculous tax to be paying because they already pay a fee (to the Department of Motor Vehicles)," said Weatherford, a member of the joint select committee on property taxes, which helped craft the proposal. "They deserve relief like everyone else, and any time I can get rid of a tax, I'm all for it."
Proponents say the plan is targeted to those who need help the most: low-income residents, mostly seniors. Further, they point out that although mobile home owners' tangible accounts represent a large percentage of a county's tangible personal property accounts, they contribute only a small portion of the actual revenue.
For example, if the amendment passes, Pinellas would lose 85 percent of its tangible property accounts, but only about 15 percent of the revenue.
"The rule really makes a ton of sense because collecting from these small accounts is not very cost effective, and it also helps the people not well off or not the most affluent," said Pam Dubov, Pinellas County's chief deputy property appraiser.
Pasco's Wells agrees. If the amendment passes, he said, employees he now has "scouring the mobile home parks could be assigned" to bigger accounts like those for major businesses.
Mobile home industry insiders say they'll encourage mobile home owners to champion the proposal.
"If you have more money you have more disposable income and when you spend that money it helps the economy and we could really use that," said Jim Ayotte, executive director of the Florida Manufactured Home Association, which promotes the mobile home industry.
Officials in Largo with the Federation of Manufactured Home Owners of Florida say they're also going to spread the word.
Jim Cleary, president of the group's Pinellas County district, said leaders will meet in the upcoming weeks to talk about the amendment and that he expects to mention it in the statewide organization's bimonthly publication that goes to each of its 100,000 members.
Said Cleary: "Almost nobody knows about this right now."
How the provision would work
Mobile home owners currently pay the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles an annual registration fee, usually between $125 and $400. Then the county property appraiser's office sends them a tangible tax bill for any additions, like a storage shed, carport or porch. If voters approve the amendment in January, mobile home owners would no longer have to pay the taxes for tangible personal property assessed at up to $25,000.
The effect around Tampa Bay
If the super exemption amendment is approved, thousands of mobile home owners would no longer pay the tangible tax. Here's a look at the number of mobile home accounts that would fall off tax rolls and the average savings for each owner.