By Steve Plunkett
Municipal leaders are taking a cautious approach to the possibility that constitutional Amendment 1 will be approved on Election Day.
“If it passes then local governments, which are the ones that tax by property taxes, will see a decrease in revenue. We’re already estimating that if it passes it will be $1.8 million,” Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer said.
“And yes, a tax cut sounds like a wonderful thing. As the League of Cities has been pointing out, this is not a tax cut, this is a tax shift,” Singer continued at the Oct. 10 City Council meeting. “So please give special consideration to that.”
The proposed amendment would give up to an additional $25,000 exemption to homesteads valued at $100,000 to $125,000. There already is a $25,000 exemption on the first $25,000 of assessed value and a second $25,000 exemption on the value between $50,000 and $75,000. The second and potential third exemptions do not apply to school district taxes.
In Ocean Ridge, Town Commissioner Kristine de Haseth also urged voters to educate themselves. The town would see tax revenues drop by about $75,000, while Palm Beach County government would lose $27.3 million.
De Haseth said 66 homesteads in Ocean Ridge are assessed at less than $100,000 and would not qualify for the additional exemption; 541 would be eligible for at least part of it.
“I encourage you to educate yourself on all the pieces, make sure that you know what it means to you personally and also what it means to your town,” she said Oct. 1.
Florida TaxWatch urged voters to say no.
“The proposed homestead benefits relatively few Florida families (29 percent) and property owners (24 percent). It also benefits only 57 percent of homestead owners,” the nonprofit watchdog group said. “It will likely lead to increases on everybody else, with higher taxes on lower-income homeowners and small businesses, and increased rents for renters.”
Also opposing the Florida Legislature-approved proposal were the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida City and County Management Association.
Delray Beach passed a League of Cities-sponsored resolution as part of its Oct. 16 consent agenda urging residents “to carefully consider the potential adverse consequences of Amendment 1 before voting.”
The consequences include municipalities being forced to raise property tax rates, benefits going to only a handful of homeowners, and businesses being exposed to a “much higher” tax burden, the league said.
Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Dorothy Jacks said the maximum benefit for Boca Raton homesteads assessed at $125,000 and up is $282. Depending on the municipal tax rate, the benefit would range from $200 to $300, she said.
Robert Rollins, chairman of the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District, said on its face, the proposal is appealing.
“As a homeowner I’d be leaning toward this,” he said.
But the district, which is funded almost 100 percent by property taxes, would have to either cut services or raise its tax rate if the amendment is approved, he said.
Gulf Stream Mayor Scott Morgan was not too worried about the prospect of the third exemption.
“We’re a small town. I don’t think it’d be a particularly significant issue,” Morgan said.
Jacks estimated the amendment would mean a loss of $35,849 for Gulf Stream.
She also predicted lost tax revenues of $40,795 in South Palm Beach, $70,129 in Lantana, $9,294 in Manalapan, $11,595 in Briny Breezes, $1.6 million in Boynton Beach, $1.6 million in Delray Beach and $153,864 in Highland Beach.
By Steve Plunkett