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Proposed: Florida Constitutional Amendment 2 Limitations on Property Tax Assessments

Amendment 2: Limitations on Property Tax Assessments

Ballot summary: “Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to permanently retain provisions currently in effect, which limit property tax assessment increases on specified non-homestead real property, except for school district taxes, to 10 percent each year. If approved, the amendment removes the scheduled repeal of such provisions in 2019 and shall take effect January 1, 2019.”

Florida voters could face twelve different proposed amendments to the state Constitution on Nov. 6 – one of the longest lists ever. The amendments include complex changes to tax policy, banning offshore oil drilling and greyhound racing, expanding gambling, automatically restoring voting rights for ex-felons, setting new rules on lobbying, and whether Florida should ban vaping in public places.

Some of the amendments “bundle” several different ideas into one, meaning voters may be forced to vote for something they don’t like in order to approve something they want, or vice versa. (Three of the amendments are mired in a legal challenge that’s before the Florida Supreme Court)

What it’s about?

Property taxes typically boil down to how much property is worth. Higher property values usually lead to bigger property tax bills, which aren’t exactly popular.

That’s where Amendment 2 comes in. The Constitutional Amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot asks voters to say yes or no on a provision designed to limit property value increases to 10 percent annually.

The limit applies to certain “non-homestead” property,which is different than a house you own and live in, such as apartments and office buildings, vacation or second homes, commercial property and vacant land.  With some exceptions, the assessed value of a piece of property cannot be increased by more than 10 percent compared to the prior year.

Does not affect your homestead exemption

Amendment 2 should not be confused with “homestead” exemptions that already lower property tax bills for permanent Florida residents who own and live in their homes.

This 10 percent limit on assessed value is already in state law, but it expires in 2019. That’s why Amendment 2  is on the ballot – to make the 10-percent limit permanent — if voters say yes.

While many people who own apartment and office buildings, vacation or second homes, commercial property or vacant land would likely be thrilled if Amendment 2 passes, the League of Women Voters of Florida is against the measure.

That’s in part because if Amendment 2 is voted down, the 10 percent limit will go away. In that case, non-homestead property would potentially see higher tax bills, the League of Women Voters says, and local governments would expect to get more money for services such as police departments, libraries and other public programs.

The amount of recovered tax revenue for communities could be in the hundreds of millions.

However, a report by the Florida TaxWatch organization says that if Amendment 2 fails and the 10-percent limit goes away, it could mean major tax increases for non-homestead property owners.

That’s because “non-homestead property will suddenly be assessed at full market value,” TaxWatch says, which “could have some serious impacts on Florida, decreasing disposable income, increasing rents and business costs, and exacerbating and perpetuating the existing inequities of Florida’s property tax system.”

A political action committee called Amendment 2 is for Everybody was launched last year and has been pushing for a yes vote on Amendment 2, including launching a multi-million-dollar ad campaign.

Among other issues, the committee focuses on rental property. “The fact of the matter is that Amendment 2 is the only protection for renters in Florida,” said committee spokeswoman Ann Howard.

“What’s more, today there are more people renting their homes in Florida since the 1980’s,” she said. “To allow Amendment 2 to fail would mean exacerbating the current shortage of affordable housing for Florida’s workforce.”

Who’s for it?

Owners of certain non-homestead property; Organizations including Florida TaxWatch, Florida Realtors, the Florida Chamber of Commerce; Lawmakers who approved the legislation in the spring of 2017 to place the Amendment on the ballot; Amendment 2 is for Everybody.

Who’s against it?

League of Women Voters of Florida; local governments that could potentially benefit from more tax revenues if the 10 percent limit wasn’t in place. In addition, the Board of Directors of the Florida Association of Counties, did not favor or oppose Amendment 2 – it voted neutral.

Other key points

Amendment 2 needs 60 percent of the vote to pass.

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune.

This piece appeared in the Florida Phoenix and was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

Graphic and layout by the Observer

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