TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Feb. 11, 2009 – A pair of tax-relief measures passed in the last two years have helped reduce property taxes for Floridians after three decades of steady increases, according to reports presented Tuesday in the state Senate.
Senate and Department of Revenue staffers told the Senate Finance and Tax Committee that non-school property tax collections dropped 2.1 percent in 2007 after the Legislature ordered a tax rate rollback. Then they dropped 3.8 percent in 2008 after voters approved a tax-cutting constitutional amendment.
Those decreases come after 32 years of average annual increases of 10 percent.
School property taxes are exempt from parts of the tax-relief measures, but they are also dropping because of declining property values across the state. That’s expected to cut school revenues by up to $1 billion in the next budget year, which begins July 1, unless lawmakers increase local school tax rates or find state dollars to replace that money.
Sen. Thad Altman, the committee’s chairman, said he was satisfied that non-school taxes have dropped but Florida’s property tax structure remains unfair. That’s due mainly to the Save Our Homes Amendment adopted in 1992. It gives tax breaks to owners of primary homes but shifts the burden to other taxpayers including recent homebuyers, businesses and owners of second and vacation homes.
Primary homeowners “who happened to buy when the market was high are paying relatively high taxes and those who bought when the market was low many, many years ago … are paying much less,” said Altman, R-Melbourne. “We haven’t really solved the heart of the problem.”
Altman said it’s unlikely lawmakers will solve it this year, either, because that would require amending the Florida Constitution. It would take a three-fourths vote in each chamber to call a special election to amend the constitution this year but only a three-fifths vote to put an amendment on the 2010 general election ballot.
“We need to be deliberate when we amend the constitution,” Altman said. “I don’t think you’re going to see a big rush to get constitutional amendments on the ballot this year because we’re going to have another year of deliberation.”
One provision of the tax-cutting amendment voters approved in January 2009 has not panned out as expected due to the state’s housing slump and national credit crunch. It allows homeowners to take part of their Save Our Homes benefits with them when they move.
This “portability” measure had been forecast to cut taxable values by $11.6 billion last year, but the actual figure was only $3.4 billion with just 42,647 homeowners taking advantage of it.
An extra $25,000 exemption for primary homes on non-school taxes in addition to an existing $25,000 exemption on all taxes cut taxable values by $92 billion. That’s slightly more than predicted.
A new $25,000 exemption on the tax paid by businesses for equipment, furniture and other tangible personal property cut $7.9 billion in property value, about $3 billion less than forecast.
The information herein is believed to be accurate but not guaranteed and may be subject to errors, omissions and changes without notice. This is not to be construed as a solicitation of property presently listed for sale. All information is derived from the Palm Beach County Property Appraisers website and the MLS.