Property tax amendment headed to ballotby Dara Kam | May 4th, 2011
Florida voters will be able to decide whether first-time homebuyers and non-homesteaded property owners should get a tax break under a proposed constitutional amendment headed to the November 2012 ballot.
The Florida Senate narrowly approved the joint resolution by a bipartisan 25-12 vote, one more than needed for the measure to pass. Some argued that the measure would create further inequities in the state’s tax structure that creates a disparity between property owners depending on how long they’ve owned or lived in the structures and that it would not help create jobs.
“I have not had one person call me up and say ‘Please reduce my property tax,’” said Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, one of the three Republicans who voted against the amendment. “In your heart, you all know it’s a cop-out to say let’s let the voters decide.”
But supporters said the proposal would infuse life into the anemic real estate market.
“We have literally tens of thousands of unoccupied homes in the state,’’ said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. “We’ve got to create some incentives.”
The measure would reduce the annual growth in assessed value from the current 10 percent limit to no more than five percent for non-homesteaded properties.
The proposed ballot item also would create a new, first-time homebuyer tax break amounting to 50 percent of the median value of homestead property in a county.
And, if approved by voters, it would give the legislature authority to repeal the so-called recapture rule, which has proved a costly irritant to some homeowners in a slumping housing market.
Under the recapture rule, even if a homesteaded property’s market value decreases, the property’s assessed value — which helps determine property taxes — must increase as long as the assessed value remains below the market value. For many homeowners who bought before the housing boom, their assessed values have not yet risen to market value, meaning their taxes have continued to climb even in a declining market.