The homeowner benefit derived from passage of state Constitutional Amendment 1 is evident enough once the bureaucratic language encrusting it is scraped away.
If passed, the amendment would exempt as much as $25,000 in property taxes for those whose homes are valued between $100,000 and $125,000. This would bring to $75,000 the maximum homestead exemption for some Florida homeowners.
But there are reasons the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida League of Cities oppose the Amendment proposal. The South Florida Sun Sentinel labeled the amendment proposal an “election-year gimmick” and other publications have been equally critical.
Passage of Amendment 1 would save one sector of homeowners a relatively few hundred dollars, the opponents say, while choking off the flow of millions into the coffers of local governments across the state.
It “would exacerbate the inequities in Florida's tax code and cost millions that local governments need for basic services such as parks, libraries and public safety,” said the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times.
Promised tax cuts are always popular with voters, and most local government officials expect Amendment 1 to pass Nov. 6 by the needed 60 percent majority.
A state House staff analysis estimated the impact to local governments state wide for fiscal 2019-2020 at $645 million, and in Fort Walton Beach, leaders have already begun contemplating a possible reduction of $350,000 to $400,000 in ad valorem revenue.
“In order to recoup the lost revenues, local governments may be forced to raise millage rates or reduce service levels,” Fort Walton Beach City Manager Michael Beedie said.
Police, fire, code enforcement and recreation are among the services Beedie said the city he leads could be forced to consider cutting.
The exemption would not include the portion of a homeowner’s property tax that goes each year to the local school district.
Additionally, if Amendment 1 passes, Beedie said, “not all taxpayers will see the benefits of the new homestead exemption.”
“With the proposed $25,000 exemption on the $100,000-$125,000 assessed value of property, only those properties with that value or higher will see the reduction in ad valorem taxes,” he said.
Supporters for Amendment 1 include the 83 state representatives and 28 state senators who voted to put the homestead exemption proposal on the November ballot.
“Making homes more affordable, we’re going to allow people to move from rental units back into homes,” Sen. Tom Lee was quoted as saying by the Florida League of Cities. “In doing so, it’s going to give us the ability to generate revenue for doc stamps, the tangible tax and a whole host of other things that go along with home ownership.”