Monday, January 14, 2008

Property Tax Vote

Our position: Amendment 1 would help rein in local government spending
Our position: Amendment 1 would help rein in local government spending
January 13, 2008
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Floridians should vote yes on Amendment 1, the property-tax cut on the Jan. 29 ballot, but not just because it will put a few extra dollars in their pockets.Amendment 1 isn't just about cutting taxes. It is about controlling government spending. It is a reality check for local governments that feasted on escalating property values over much of the past decade instead of lowering tax rates.As property values rose, tax collections soared. Levies doubled between 1997 and last year, including 42 percent in just three years. Property taxes grew three times faster than growth in population and inflation combined. At the same time, government services didn't seem to get any better. What a waste.
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With even a modicum of self-control, cities and counties could have lowered their property-tax rates. Most didn't, and spending more than doubled.Even after lawmakers approved a rollback of the tax rate last year, almost half of Central Florida's cities and counties set their rates higher. Others raised fees for services, like fire protection, that should be paid for through property taxes.There is no guarantee that Amendment 1 would force local governments to behave responsibly. They could still try to raise tax rates or fees. But if Amendment 1 passes and taxes do not drop, Floridians will demand answers. That alone is a powerful incentive for local governments to be more responsible.Amendment 1 would increase the average savings from the state's homestead exemption from $500 to about $800. Businesses and second-home owners would get a cap on property assessments. It would pump up the state's stagnant real-estate market by giving homeowners "portability," allowing them to move and transfer part of their Save Our Homes benefit that now saves an average of $1,000.Let's be clear. It is not fair that Save Our Homes gives long-term homeowners big tax savings while more recent homeowners pay higher taxes for houses of comparable value. But Save Our Homes is rooted in the state constitution, and voters will never remove it.Opponents argue that portability only adds to the unfairness and would discriminate against new home buyers who move here from other states. They say that if challenged in court, a judge could order governments to repay billions of dollars in tax payments to resolve past inequities caused by portability or Save Our Homes.But the reality is that it would be impossible to untangle Florida's complex property-tax structure and calculate who paid too much or too little over the years. Even if it were possible, the courts would not order such a remedy because it would impose financial ruin on governments and threaten important public services.Amendment 1 would not make Florida's tax system fairer. But if it forces local governments to spend more wisely, all Floridians will benefit. County/City 2001 Per Capita Property Taxes 2006 Per Capita Property Taxes Annual Growth Orange $387.30 $549.60 7.25% Orlando $386.57 $548.24 7.24% Belle Isle $165.21 $364.38 17.14% Winter Park $363.57 $665.96 12.87% Windemere $302.47 $667.02 17.14% Osceola $356.10 $576.10 10.10% Kissimmee $141.34 $303.50 16.51% St. Cloud $114.45 210.17 12.92% Volusia $273.40 $419.70 8.95% Debary $118.37 $310.42 21.27% Deltona $88.56 $154.60 11.79% Lake $204.80 $417.90 15.34% Clermont $201.41 $340.44 11.07% Eustis $166.91 $282.20 11.07% Leesburg $187.71 $313.89 10.83% Tavares $148.16 $312.73 16.11% Seminole $238.9 $357.9 8.41% Sanford $218.44 $359.48 10.48% Lake Mary $388.52 $570.36 7.98% Oviedo $221.58 $358.04 10.07% Winter Springs $140.33 $253.16 12.53% - Source: Florida House of Representatives -->
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