I live in a Manufactured Home Community in Lake Wales, a 55+ park, along with other seniors. For 2012, our park received a tax increase of $34,688, along with an increased value assessment of 66 percent. This was in addition to the $104,509 we paid in 2011. While you may think all of these taxes are paid by the park owner, think again; every dollar of tax increase is passed thru to the senior residents as part of their leased land agreements. It is we senior residents who pay the taxes.
This huge tax increase of $34,688 was caused because some large conglomerate bought up nine of these manufactured home communities counties here in Polk County. While I realize the tax accessor’s office was following the law in having to reevaluate all manufactured home communities as to their new value, based on what these nine sold for, there is no justifiable reason for the failure of Marsha Faux’s office not petitioning the State for relief or adjustment from these required tax assessments. Further, this increase hit only the manufactured home communities, not site-built home sites, not agriculture, not business, etc.
We seniors live in these 55+ communities for a few simple reasons: affordability, ease of maintenance, security, companionship, community, etc. These nine recently sold parks changed ownership mainly because the interest rates are so low, allowing the purchaser extremely low financing. The government always seems to be looking for new groups to exempt from taxes. Look at the Homestead exemption increases on this year’s election ballots. And with the park owner being the ones who collects and pays these taxes as part of the leased-land rent agreements, he gets to deduct them and reduce his federal/business taxes. In addition, we residents are double taxed – the tax we pay in our rents, and the tax we have to pay the DMV every year for our manufactured homes. On top of all this, manufactured home values have been dropping significantly. My home is worth far less than I paid for it just four years ago so I am “under water” and therefore can’t afford to sell it? So our homes values are way down and yet our taxes go way up. Something is very wrong here.
Contrary to popular belief, seniors don’t have an unending supply of money. What we have, we worked for, and saved for, and we didn’t go out and buy a brand new home and brand new car as soon as we got married. No, we SAVED for that, and worked our butts off so we could rest a little in our senior years and have a meal out every now and then. The taxes may not seem like much to the average person, but we have people in our park who have to choose whether they will eat or pay their increased rent because of these taxes and many are widows and widowers. They didn’t choose this, but a loss of their partner, steady inflation and the drop in interest rates have made it so. A lot of our seniors are back working or looking for work when they should not have to, just to make ends meet.
Am I upset? You bet I am. And just because the County Commissioners delayed that ridiculous Stormwater tax for another year doesn’t mean it is dead. Our park’s assessment this year for Stormwater would have been yet another tax of $19,611, making a one-year tax increase of $54,299. At least, due to public pressure, the county commissioners had the sense to back off.
And who knows what they will come up with again next year.
We are seniors, we are Americans, we always pay our fair share, that is our way. We contribute to our area, both economically and with volunteerism. We seniors don’t ask for anything other than what we have earned. But realize, we aren’t dumb and we certainly aren’t senile. The County is WRONG on this situation. True, they may have been following the law in true government bureaucratic fashion. But If Ms. Faux and her staff truly cared for the Polk County seniors, they should have immediately seen this situation arising, and petitioned the State on these methods of assessment and gotten an exemption. Instead, they took the easy way out, followed those state guidelines to the letter, crossed every “t,” dotted every “i” and screwed over the people who could least afford it, with the old excuse of “I’m just doing my job,” or “I’m just following the law.” This won’t be forgotten come Election Day.
If we want to continue to see people move to Florida and support this state’s economy, then the tax assessors need to grow some backbone and stand up to the state of Florida when the regulations don’t make good sense. Thank you.