St. Petersburg mobile homeowner Michael Eak had no idea his complaint was already on Pinellas Tax Collector Diane Nelson's radar.
"It's only fair to people that do pay, that everybody pays," Eak told FOX 13 News, referring to the annual tax decals mobile owners must buy. "I called the DMV, I called the tax collector’s office and they all just want to keep putting it off on other people, that there's nothing they can do."
Nelson said Tuesday the number of calls such as Eak's has been growing in recent years. There is a reason.
"They used to have state officials that would go out and issue violations," Nelson explained. "Well, those are all gone, there hasn't been an enforcement and really, enforcement is an issue."
This week, her office mailed delinquency notices to 2,500 mobile homeowners who did not renew their decals in 2011.
"If somebody's not paying their taxes, it's my job to make sure that they know that it is due. And if we have to file a tax lien, then that's what we'll do," Nelson said, repeating the threat contained in the delinquency notices.
Eak is initially underwhelmed.
"Put a tax lien on your trailer still doesn't mean they're collecting," he commented. "It's like if you sue somebody, you can win the judgment but then you have to go through a whole 'nuther process to collect that money."
Nelson said the lien will be the superior lien, even to a lender's, and will have to be satisfied before the title to the mobile home can be transferred.
More aggressive collections might test spending too much to collect too little.
"You have to look at it from a business case," she said. "How much can you go out there and afford when you know budgets are cut...staffing is not there."
Her first round of notices are a test run.
"Right now, we're just trying to identify some of the issues that are out there so that we can maybe come up with a better game plan," Nelson said.
She agrees with citizen Eak's fairness issue, and his underlying understanding of the role of taxes. As Eak explained it, "My right as an American to be part of the community, and you pay for what you want. You want good roads, you gotta pay for it."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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