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Friday, February 23, 2024

Florida homeowners hold their breath as representatives debate property tax relief

CSMS Magazine Staff WritersLast Friday, Florida House and Senate leaders agreed on a basic outline for property tax relief. House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, and Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, disclosed the results of behind-the-scenes negotiations in a letter to their colleagues.            The Republicans have opted for a two-step approach. First, they foresee  immediate statutory tax cuts the “Legislature can enact on its own and long-range reductions that will require voter approval through passage of one or more amendments to the Florida Constitution.”            These statutory cuts would be tied to how much city and county governments have increased taxes. “Those jurisdictions whose taxes have grown the most on a per capita basis will be required to reduce them the most,” Rubio and Pruitt wrote.             However, cities and counties, with the lowest increases would face the smallest cuts. The proposal would not require for schools to reduce taxes. On the other hand, no agreement yet has been reached on how to deal with those mostly rural cities and counties facing financial hardship and special districts lacking other revenue sources..             Strangely enough, these republican leaders also agreed that cities and counties should have a way to override the tax limits through some method such as a vote of governing bodies of more than a simple majority or a local referendum, according to the Associated Press.            Here is how it is being stipulated: the long-term constitutional approach would do away with the existing $25,000 homestead exemption for primary homes and Save Our Homes Amendment, which limits increases in homestead assessments to 3 percent annually.            They would be replaced by a tiered, percentage-based super exemption. For example, the first $100,000 of a home’s value might be 70 percent exempt, the next $100,000 would be 50 percent exempt and so on. Homeowners, though, would be able to keep their Save Our Homes benefits if those are better than the super exemption.            “It’s better than having a rigid dollar amount,” said Senate Finance and Tax Committee Chairman Mike Haridopolos, R-Indialantic. “The percentage is a reflection of the economic times.”            Rubio and Pruitt rejected a proposal by House Democrats, who suggest to base the super exemption on a percentage of median home value in each county. Experts agree that would have soften the financial blow on low-value counties, but it could have created new inequities by taxing nearby, similar homes at different rates just because they are on one or the other side of a county line.            House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber, of Miami Beach, said he was pleased by the agreement but worried it fails to address other aspects of tax relief. Gelber said in a statement that he hoped those issues would be resolved Monday.            “It is without question that this is a complex issue that if not properly addressed will bring our economy to a screeching halt,” Gelber said. “As I have said many times, we can’t solve one face of this Rubik’s cube and then worry about resolving the remaining sides.”            Florida Association of Counties Chairwoman Susan Latvala, a Pinellas County commissioner, was “cautiously optimistic” lawmakers are taking into account the need to preserve essential services provided by local governments.            “We appreciate the president and speaker’s acknowledgment that a one size approach does not fit all communities by providing an override option,” Latvala said in a statement. “In addition, we agree … all taxpayers should benefit from property tax reform and the inequities within our current structure should be remedied.”Legislature will take up at a special session to last 10 days (June 12-22.) Observers agree that a property tax relief will help the Florida’s broken real estate market and will help to forestall the alarming foreclosure rate in the State.Also see Real Estate Commission Fallen

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