Baltimore County considers eliminating monthly tax on mobile homes residents

The Baltimore County Council could vote Monday on a measure that would eliminate a monthly tax that’s charged to owners of mobile homes.

The county’s roughly 2,600 mobile home owners have been paying the $20-a-month tax for decades, while residents of conventional homes and apartments do not.

That strikes County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins as unfair. The bill she’s sponsoring to eliminate the tax is scheduled for a vote at Monday’s council meeting.

The measure, which would cost the county an estimated $600,000 a year in revenue, is opposed by County Executive Don Mohler’s administration.

“The administration opposes any reduction in revenue,” said Fred Homan, county administrative officer.

Bevins noted that the tax was put into place in 1954 — “before I was born” — to ensure that transient workers who came to the area in the post-World War II boom years paid for county services.

“At the time, they were mobile. Owners would come and go and not pay any property taxes, but still benefited from county services while living here,” said Bevins, a Democrat who has several mobile home communities in her east county district.

But decades later, mobile home parks are occupied by long-term residents who pay income taxes that go to the county. In addition, she said, the owners of the mobile home parks pay property taxes, just as owners of apartment complexes do.

Apartment residents don’t pay an additional tax like the mobile home tax, Bevins noted.

“That extra $20 a month, to me, is double-dipping,” she said.

The county’s tax is set at 7 percent of a mobile home resident’s monthly rent, capped at $20 per month. The tax is collected by mobile home park managers and passed on to the county.

If the bill passes, Baltimore County would join Anne Arundel County, which eliminated its $300 annual mobile home tax last year. Howard County considered eliminating its tax, an average of $45 per month, but the measure was defeated in September.

Bevins believes her bill has a good chance of passing, despite Mohler’s opposition. Mohler’s budget director and Homan testified against the bill during a hearing last week.

In a letter to council members, budget director Keith Dorsey said the mobile home tax ensures that mobile home residents “pay their fair share” of taxes.

“More importantly,” Dorsey wrote. “The loss of $600,000 in general fund revenue at this time would result in significant damage to the county’s revenue stream.”

Dorsey wrote that Mohler “is reluctant to embrace any proposal that cuts revenue at this time.”

Baltimore County is facing some financial strains. A report issued earlier this year warned the county is not on track to set aside enough money in savings, and projected that the county is on pace to exceed a safe level of borrowing by 2022 if budget patterns aren’t changed. The county’s total budget is $3.3 billion, making the $600,000 received in mobile home taxes a tiny fraction of 1 percent of the total.

Council Chairman Julian Jones, a Woodstock Democrat, also was skeptical of cutting tax revenue at this time.

“The issue is someone has to pay taxes for the services we provide,” he said.

Paul Svoboda hopes the county will eliminate the tax. He’s president of the Baltimore County Mobile Home Owners Association and has lived in Middle River’s Williams Estates and Peppermint Woods community for a decade.

He was always bothered by the monthly tax and tried a few years ago to get traction to eliminate it. He said he’s pleased Bevins is sponsoring the bill to do just that.

Svoboda said he’s grateful for county services like police officers, firefighters and schools, but said he already pays his fair share through income taxes and the landlord’s property taxes.

“We’re part of the community,” he said. “It just does not seem fair that we have to pay the extra tax. The property owner that owns the ground, he pays a large property tax.”

The Baltimore County Council meets at 6 p.m. Monday at the Historic Courthouse, 400 Washington Ave. in Towson.

pwood@baltsun.com

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