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Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Aug. 17, 2018 2 years ago

Amendment 1: Volusia County Property Appraiser asks voters to think carefully

Who will benefit and who won't?
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

Consider who will be getting a tax cut and who won't, said Volusia County Property Appraiser Larry Bartlett on Florida Legislature's proposed homestead exemption increase during the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce's Tallahassee Speaker Series event on Thursday, Aug. 16.

Bartlett believes the increase, known as Amendment 1 on the ballot, will likely pass. However, he said he wants to educate voters on "what it really means."

“Nobody likes to pay taxes," Bartlett said. "I know I don’t like to pay taxes, but as long as everybody pays their fair share, I’m okay with that.”

Bartlett said the homestead exemption is not a benefit for everybody. Homeowners with an assessed value (or value of home placed by local government to calculate property taxes) of more than $100,000 will benefit from the exemption. Those with assessed values less than $100,00 will not. 

To put it in perspective, Bartlett outlined that 90% of the homes in Ponce Inlet would qualify and benefit from the increased homestead exemption, but in Holly Hill, that percentage dropped to 5%. 

Bartlett distributed a handout during the event that further stated that if passed, Volusia County's tax base would decrease by $1.3

Florida Rep. Tom Leek speaks during the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce's Tallahassee Speaker Series event on Thursday, Aug. 16. Photo by Jarleene Almenas

billion, prompting higher taxes for properties that don't qualify for the increased homestead exemption. The deficit in taxes will be made up by a higher millage, the handout reads.

Bartlett was also tasked with speaking in favor of the amendment, to which he quoted Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran on the exemption being one of, if not the "largest tax cut in the history of Florida," via a $645 million cut.

Florida Rep. Tom Leek also spoke in favor of the amendment during the event. He said the argument is that the way the exemption is structured provides a disproportionate benefit to people with higher valued homes, which is true. But, he said, it also provides "two doughnut holes" so that homes with lower values and local governments aren't unfairly impacted.

“What that actually did was spread the impact of that particular tax exemption more broadly so that it didn’t disproportionally hit," Leek said.

The homestead exemption was only one of the five amendments discussed in depth at the event. Here is a roundup of the pros and cons of four others that could impact Volusia County businesses, according to the Daytona Regional Chamber.

Amendment 2 — Permanent cap on non-homestead parcel assessment increases

Supporters say: Passing this amendment would prevent a $700 million increase in property taxes for businesses, rental and non-homestead properties. 

Counterpoint: Tax sources and revenues shouldn't be specified, limited or prohibited in the Constitution, and putting a cap could create an unequal spread of taxes. 

Amendment 3 — Voter approval of casino gambling 

Supporters say: The amendment would take gambling proposals out of legislature's control and into the voter's hands.

Counterpoint: People in other parts of the state shouldn't be part of a local decision regarding gambling, therefore the proposals should remain in the control of our local legislative representatives.

Amendment 5 — Two-thirds vote of legislature to increase taxes or fees

Supporters say: A two-thirds vote would protect citizens from possible "swings" in legislature when a political party is the majority and would make it harder for state taxes to increase. It would not limit taxation on local government or school districts.

Counterpoint: A two-thirds vote would also be required to eliminate exemptions should the state want to revisit the fairness of our tax system, making it more difficult to modernize tax structures. 

Amendment 9 — Ban offshore oil and gas drilling, ban vaping in enclosed indoor workplaces

Supporters say: This stacked amendment would provide the opportunity to explore alternate sources of energy and protect Florida's waters. 

Counterpoint: Offshore drilling has been illegal in Florida since 1988, and banning it in its entirety (exploration included) would make Florida depend on foreign oil. 

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