How Will You Vote on Taxes in January
By Anne McKay Garris
Florida Senator Dennis Jones, Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Steel, and Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard responded to questions on the tax bill Florida voters will be voting on in January 2008 at a meeting of the Sand Key Civic Association meeting, last week.
A major proposal of the bill will double the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000 to protect Florida home owners from the inflated property values of most homes in Florida. Senator Jones pointed out that the $25,000 homestead exemption had already taken thousands of homes off the tax roles completely. He stated that the increase to $50,000 exemption would take some counties off the real estate tax rolls completely. He added that the rest of Florida residents would then have to pay the bill for the exempt counties.
Save Our Homes is the measure which restricts the amount your home's appraisal can rise per year to 3 percent. Thus, if your home's market value rose 10 percent next year, the taxable value can only rise 3 percent of the amount. Currently, if you sell your home and move, the determination of your taxable value will begin at the market value of the house you purchase, which may be thousands of dollars more than your current home. This, according to the experts, makes it difficult for homeowners to move to a new home because their taxes could go from four digest to five in the process.
The January bill proposes that the Save Our Homes benefit be portable and your tax cap will follow you to your new home.
The referendum does not address "highest and best use," namely the practice of taxing a property at the value of what could be put on it (i.e. a condominium) instead of the value of what's on it (possibly a restaurant).
Some officials have said that the Property Appraiser has a choice on whether or not he appraises property at its highest and best use. Others say he has no choice. When this question was asked the three officials present, they poured words on it, but did not give a definite answer.
At any rate, the problem of "highest and best use" appraisals -- taxing property at far more than the current business on it can afford to pay -- is not addressed in the January referendum.
In order to throw a bone to the business owners, the referendum calls for a $25,000 deduction in tangible property tax.
Someone pointed out that only 30 percent of the homes on Sand Key were homesteaded and there was feeling that the homestead exemption and Save Our Homes cap were discriminatory. The referendum addresses this complaint with a 10 percent cap on the increase in taxable value of non-homesteaded dwelling units.
Asked if they were going to vote for the Bill in January, all three of the officials expressed concerns about some of it. Senator Jones made the point that the vote would not be the end of the world either way. There is, he said, a Budget and Taxation Committee which will be convening shortly. This is a committee of ordinary citizens that meets every ten years. This committee has representatives from all over the state and Nancy Riley of Clearwater is a member. They are authorized to place proposals on the ballot in November.
"Regardless how the vote in January goes," said Senator Jones, "we will have the Budget and Taxation Committee's proposals in November which could change it all again."
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