Budget making season approaches inexorably and cities, towns, villages and hamlets throughout the state await what the Legislature will do in reforming the tax structure.
Projected expenditures, for the most part, are at a standstill in all local municipalities. Lots of stuff is on the back burner with only locked in obligations being currently in the minds of elected officials.
The mantra is heard again and again in local commission and council meetings - "Let's wait until we see what the Legislature does."
Nothing really substantive will be known, it appears, for four long weeks. Tallahassee legislators will meet from June 12-22 in special session. Out of that will come the tax picture that will affect all tax levying entities in the state.
Some suggestions have been heard about what may happen. The Florida House of Representatives, the Senate and Gov. Charlie Crist have all come up with tentative proposals.
It's not that the folks in Tallahassee haven't done anything until this upcoming special session. The House and Senate each came up with proposals when they were still in session and near the end of the session sent them to the governor, who had his own plan. He then called for the special session.
Here is what is on the table now, as the Legislature gets ready to get into this onerous and complicated task -
Initially, the House plan would roll back levies to fiscal year 2001, and limits future increases by factoring in inflation, population growth and new construction.
The next step would be a constitutional amendment that would go to referendum. This would cut $3.1 billion in homestead based taxes in exchange for a one cent sales tax increase.
A third phase in the House plan would offer to raise the sales tax by another penny (to seven cents plus, presumably, an extra penny for the local option tax; i.e., "Penny for Pinellas"). Another half-penny added on would eliminate school district taxes (sales tax in Pinellas would go to 8.5 cents).
In the Senate proposal, property tax rates would go back to the 2005-06 levels with a one-year freeze on any increase. There would be a cap effective in 2008.
Another feature of the Senate plan is that first time home buyers would get a $50,000 exemption until reaching levels of the "Save Our Homes" plan. The SOH benefit would be portable.
The governor's plan is more drastic. It calls for a roll back to 2003 expenditures and a cap on total revenues that go to governments. Increases would be predicated on population growth and personal income increases. User fees to make up for the difference in revenues will not be allowed.
In the second year of the governor's proposal, the homestead exemption would be doubled and the SOH would be portable.
Obviously, whatever Tallahassee comes up with, impact will be significant.
In the meantime, budget planners in the cities wonder and wait.