H-T readers share opinions about additional property tax break

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This fall, Florida voters could approve an additional property tax exemption for homeowners.

Recently, some local elected officials raised concerns that if the exemption is approved, it might force a choice between cutting services because of reduced revenue or raising tax rates. If the latter happens, they say, it could shift more of a tax burden onto non-homesteaded properties — such as rental housing.

The Herald-Tribune asked readers for their opinions about the upcoming referendum. Here is a sampling of their responses:

• “I find it a little disingenuous to report, if the third $25,000 exemption passes, governments will see a reduction in revenue,” Sarasota County Property Appraiser Bill Furst wrote. “With rising property values and new construction, they will receive more money every year. Amendment 1 does not cut revenues when you compare one year to the next. In fact, if you were to apply this third $25,000 exemption to this year’s tax roll, there is still a significant increase in revenues from last year to this year. This year, the Sarasota County general revenue fund received $13 million more than last year to spend in their budget. Applying the third $25,000 for this tax year, there would still be an increase in revenue, not a cut. My office estimates the increase would be $7 million from last year.”

• Jerri King of Englewood expressed a similar sentiment.

“Yes!” King wrote. “Vote for it. Property values are going up. More people keep coming here and there will be extra revenue due to that, if it is not wasted by programs no one needs.”

• “As a retiree living here in Manatee County, the low taxes, extra exemptions and whatever other savings you can give me are welcomed with open arms,” John LiMarzi contributed. “Of course, that is my own selfish view and, while beneficial to me on the surface, it doesn’t do much to boost the overall quality of life in the county I live in.

“You don’t have enough money for schools so you add sales tax increment after increment (and then give away a portion of that to private schools),” LiMarzi continued. “You do not have enough money for police, fire and ambulance services, yet you hesitate to impose proper fees on developers. You have severe flooding problems but no funds to address them, so you add additional fees to water-sewer services. Your roads are falling apart, crowded and deteriorated; the roadway network inadequate; the signal systems antiquated — but you have no money to address that. You allow development of hundreds of homes on old, narrow, winding roads without ever addressing new right of way that might be required or even how you will repave.

The Nov. 6 referendum

If at least 60 percent of voters approve this fall, Florida will enact another $25,000 homestead exemption to reduce property taxes for homeowners.

Florida already exempts the first $25,000 in value on an owner-occupied home. It also exempts another $25,000 (except for School Board taxes) on homes valued at $75,000 or more. If approved, the third exemption (which also would not apply to School Board taxes) would be for homesteaded values between $100,000 and $125,000.

“Florida is living in a fantasy world. You are against raising taxes and for giving tax rebates and then you cry that you cannot afford even basic services to residents without imposing additional fees.”

• “I vote: yes, yes and yes,” wrote Sarasota County resident Deanna Barber, a fixed-income senior. “Crazy homeowners mandatory insurance kills us already. Would love another tax break.”

• “I am for the additional exemption for homeowners,” Sarasota resident Kathy Coleman said. “Why? Because I believe there is a lot of unnecessary spending that could be cut without affecting the services the county provides for. As with all governments at all levels, there is always some waste. Barring that, increase the taxes tourists pay to offset the cost of renting here, spending here and voting here for all year-round residents.”

• “I think it should stay the way it is,” Patience Johnson of Osprey wrote.

• “Yes, I would be on board for the approval of an additional homestead exemption, ” Barry Kwartnik of Sarasota commented.

• Frank Romanelli of Venice said an increase in the exemption “would help greatly.”

• “We think it’s OK because it will help the people who most need it,” Don and Nancy Kopf of Sarasota contributed. “Renters may not feel it. Those in the more expensive homes won’t feel the little pinch.”

• “Yes, yes, yes!” Dolly Klepek of Manatee County wrote. “It would be great to have another homestead exemption. I don’t want to sound selfish, but I have a normal exemption for being a Floridian for 40 years and one for low income. I am in my 80s, still working four days a week, 16 hours, to pay to live a little better. I have a reverse mortgage at present and I feel the taxes are high. With another homestead exemption, I could stop working and not worry like I do at present.”

• “I am one of those mom-and-pop landlords,” Mary Hale of Sarasota stated. “Or, in my case, a ‘mom-only landlord.’ As a single woman, I have worked all my adult life but never had an opportunity for pension or company-supported IRA. So creating a little security for my old age has included buying two tiny rental condos. The income from these is slight. I frequently wonder if it is worth the time and effort to self manage these small investments. But I also do not know of a better place to put my limited savings. Others perhaps would have better ideas but at an age where I receive Medicare, I cannot afford to take any risks. In an effort to anticipate my potential long life ahead, I live in a small property of the same value as my two modest rentals. So, yes, any increase in my expenses I have to pass along to my two tenants.”

• “Everyone should vote for the exemption,” Manatee County resident Matthew Stevenson contributed. “We came from Annapolis, Maryland, where we sold our house that we paid off our loan and was able to pay cash for this one. We have a 2001 Buick. Only income is our Social Security.”

• “Once again, the homestead exemption rears its ugly head and is one more case of taxation without representation,” Venice area resident Richard Bond wrote. “Snowbirds, or anyone with more than one home, are affected on their non-homesteaded home and are not allowed to vote on this. Government will get their money from somewhere. If the exemption passes, the money lost from the extra exemption will be transferred to those who have no say about it — the renters and those who do not have an exemption because they are not residents. But we still pay taxes and pay for 12 months of service, even though we are only here half the time. Give us a vote, too. With modern voting methods, it is very easy to list those that have no voting privilege but still pay full taxes. We should be allowed to vote on what affects our wallet and, no, we are not asking to vote for your politicians, just what affects us.”

• “As such, this appears to be a useful amendment,” Osprey resident Charles Dudley stated. “Given the current building boom with its wretched excess of multi-million dollar homes, I doubt that Sarasota County will have a budget problem. Nevertheless, some detailed analysis is needed to judge the effect on other less prosperous Florida counties.”

• “We don’t need another $25,000,” Barbara McDermott of Venice commented. “What services will be cut? If they raise the millage rate, it will hurt people in the under $100,000 value as their taxes will go up.”

• “I would very much like to see an approval of an additional $25,000 homestead exemption on property taxes this fall,” Frederick McKinley of Venice wrote. ”… Count on my vote this fall for the third one. Our home is valued over $300k.”

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