• Reduce the cap on increases in non-homesteaded property values from 10 percent to 5 percent and extend the expiration of that cap to 2023.
• First-time home buyers, defined as those who have not owned a home in Florida in the past three years would receive an additional homestead exemption on half of their home’s appraised value up to $150,000. It would be phased out over five years.
• The final provision would allow the Legislature to repeal Florida’s “recapture” rule, which causes some taxable values on homesteaded property to rise even as market values drop.
Pinellas County officials worry about trimming already reduced budgets and are trying to strike fear into the hearts of residents, but pro-Amendment 4 organizations believe that property tax revenues will decline in the first few years, but homeowners will in turn spend more money and push tax revenues back to local governments in the long run.
If the county is forced to make more cuts, it could mean service reductions or more fees, such as the unpopular $5 fee now required to go to Fort De Soto Park. (I guess I am in the minority that I don’t have a problem paying $5 to go to Fort DeSoto if it helps keep it nice and clean and it means my tax bill is lower?!)
According to the article, Fairbrother, of the Taxpayers First Group, objects to the notion that Amendment 4 will translate into higher taxes.
“This doesn’t force local governments to raise millage rates,” Fairbrother said. “That’s not an accurate analysis. We need to look at long-term solutions.”
He points to an analysis done in June by Florida TaxWatch, a group that monitors state spending and tax policy. The group estimates that Amendment 4 would create 20,524 jobs and trigger between 319,861 and 383,810 additional home sales over a 10-year period.
The amendment would have little impact on the portion of property taxes that pays for public schools, which is roughly 40 percent of the total bill.
Amendment 4 also is an attempt to reduce inequities in the property tax system, particularly those that resulted from the Save Our Homes amendment in the 1990s.
Because assessment increases on homesteaded properties are capped at 3 percent a year, recent home buyers pay increasingly larger tax bills than longtime owners, even on homes with the same market value.
Amendment 4 tries to balance that out by offering benefits to new homeowners. The Florida Realtors organization is, of course, encouraging Realtors and homeowners alike to Vote YES on Amendment 4 for the reason above.
The article goes on to say how much in revenues would be cut (big numbers = scare the taxpayers) and that this could mean potentially the jobs of police officers and other county workers. However, in my own humble opinion, taxpayers are not cash cows to balance your budgets, Pinellas County. Perhaps budgets need to be tightened a bit, starting with the salaries of our paid officials, and not police officers. Our taxes and mileage rate here in Pinellas County are much higher than they are in surrounding Hillsborough or Pasco Counties – why is that?
What do you think? Please take our poll and feel free to tell us why you are voting the way you are in the comments below.