Florida voters may decide next year on new property tax break

Lawmakers want homeowners to get additional $25,000 property tax break

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – As a Florida homeowner, would you vote to give yourself an additional property tax break? Would you vote for it if you are a renter?

A proposed constitutional amendment passed by the Florida Senate on Monday and Florida House on Tuesday would allow homeowners to shield an additional $25,000 of the value of their home valued over $100,000 from most property taxes. The additional exemption would not apply to taxes charged by school districts.

If signed by Gov. Rick Scott and 60 percent of voters say yes next fall, the amendment would take effect in 2019.

If passed, the amendment would save Florida homeowners roughly $644 million a year -- about $200 to the owner of a home valued at $125,000 or above. 

“If passed by the voters, this additional exemption will be one of, if not the largest, tax cut in the history of Florida at $645 million,” House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, said in a prepared statement. 

Currently, homeowners receive a tax exemption on the first $25,000 in value of their properties. They pay taxes on the value between $25,000 and $50,000 and then receive an additional exemption on the portion from $50,000 to $75,000. Voters will be asked to apply an additional non-school exemption to the portion of values between $100,000 and $125,000.

"I'm all for it. I think we deserve it," Jacksonville homeowner Richard Main. "You know, homeowners, we bust our butts paying for these houses and that homestead exemption is what we need every year."

Not everyone would benefit from the property tax break, and it will lead to either budget cuts for local governments or higher taxes passed on to renters and business owners.

"As a homeowner, or just as a voter in the state of Florida, you'll get to vote on this," said Eddie Creamer, St. Johns County's property appraiser. "As a voter, you should be informed and educated on what this really means."

If you live in a modest home with a taxable value of less than $100,000, there won't be a tax cut for you. There are about 11,000 homes in St. Johns County that are valued at less than $100,000, and thousands more residents who live in apartments or rental homes.

"I'm sure that if you're of low and moderate income, this has no benefit for you," Creamer said.

Sixty-three thousand homeowners in St. Johns county would benefit from the homestead expansion.

Student and single mom Tenaisha Abrams is not one of them. She is a renter who moved to St. Johns County to get a quality education for her 5-year-old.

"I feel like if there's no balance for the rest of Florida, then it doesn't make any sense," Abrams said. "It should be something that benefits everybody in the long run, not just whoever has a bigger house."

Creamer said counties like St. Johns County, where more than 3,000 new homes are being built each year, the new housing on the tax rolls would help absorb revenue lost from the larger exemption.

More rural areas like Putnam and Baker counties are most likely to feel the loss in revenue. It could hurt local governments, which could see cuts to services like libraries and parks.

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