Some owners of mobile and manufactured homes in Wayne County may soon be exempt from property taxation.

At the April 17 joint workshop between the county’s commissioners and council members, Treasurer Nancy Funk presented the option to end assessing personal property taxes on the structures, in part as a way to reduce the work her office does to collect those dollars, especially in delinquency situations.

The choice is made possible by Indiana Senate Bill 183, passed in March and sponsored by Sen. Jeff Raatz and Rep. Brad Barrett, among others. The legislation allows counties to pass local ordinances that exempt mobile homes and manufactured homes from annual personal property tax assessments. The ordinance would not apply to structures that are considered inventory or “real property.”

Funk said that currently Wayne County taxing units only receive “minimal” tax revenue from these assessments. Records provided to the WWN show that in 2023, $155,276.01 in tax assessments were billed across 33 taxing units for mobile homes, and $125,095.75 of that was collected.

While foregoing that income would be a loss, Funk told council and commissioners that she considers it minor compared to the time and expense that goes toward chasing down owners, pursuing payments and conducting tax sales. The efforts are often made on behalf of towns and cities, and recoveries and losses have to be divided up across townships, libraries, schools and others, further complicating the administrative work involved.

Former treasurer and current council member Cathy Williams described it as “spending a dollar to collect a nickel.”

Funk said she’s already received calls from mobile home park owners curious if an ordinance is forthcoming. Council members were open to the change but did not want to move quickly, and some expressed concerns about the expectations it might set. “If we start talking about eliminating taxes, everybody else is going to want their taxes eliminated too,” said council member Gary Saunders.

The bodies took no action on the matter during the meeting. If a change is made, it would not go into effect until 2025.

Also during the workshop, council and commissioners discussed the communities applying for Stellar strategic investment funds before the May 1 application deadline, led by the Wayne County Foundation. Council voted to join and endorse the application process.

Additionally, they heard from community coordinator Beth Fields about American Rescue Plan Act expenditures and projects, both those that HELP is funding as well as non-HELP items. The county must commit the funds by Dec. 31, 2024. The council approved interlocal agreements to facilitate the needed fund distributions to area communities where projects are planned or underway.

Fields had presented the same list earlier in the day at the commissioners` weekly morning meeting. Also at the meeting, commissioners:

  • Recognized Wayne County Emergency Management staff members Matthew Cain, director, and Jon Duke and Erin Campbell, deputy directors, for their work to prepare the community for the April 8 solar eclipse. Commissioner Brad Dwenger said it had not been an easy task and that they did a “phenomenal” job. “We didn’t get the crowds we were hoping for, but better to be prepared than not prepared,” Dwenger said. All three received letters of appreciation.
  • Heard from Steve Higinbotham, the county’s director of facilities and development, on a series of repair and improvement projects.
  • Accepted the recommendation from Higinbotham that the county give away two small parcels of land at Garwood Road and South B Street to the adjacent property owners. The county had set them aside for tree plantings and is now responsible for the drainage fees as a part of the A.F. Scott Ditch assessments.
  • Reviewed the status of opioid settlement fund balances and distribution plans.
  • Approved a discounted rental rate of $3,500 for the two-day square-body pickup truck show planned for later this year, and a rate of $4,500 for 2025. Lisa Crossley told commissioners that event organizers have been working to increase the amount they can pay but need more time to grow the event. The group paid $1,500 in 2022 and 2023. The current published rate is $3,300 per day.

Both council and commissioners meet again on Wednesday, May 1 in the county administration building, council at 8 a.m. and commissioners at 1:30 p.m. The public may attend.

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A version of this article appeared in the April 24 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Chris Hardie is the owner and publisher of the Western Wayne News.