Friday, March 16, 2007

Affordable Housing Initiatives in South Florida: Part 6 - The Battle for Mordor Begins

The Sun Sentinel (yes ... it is one of my primary news sources as it is the best paper down here) had a great update on where the property tax battle is headed.

Basically the scene is set that the Republicans and Democrats agree (WHOA!) that something has to be done. They also agree that their plans both have merits (WHOA WHOA!)... but the biggest changes are just not striking the fancy of either side.

State Senators seem to be tense about the entire subject but only a handful are standing up for what could be the most important legislation of their term(s) in office!

Note, the (S) was not only for those incumbents.. but for the lack of incumbents should changes not manifest.

Oddly (for Florida) the Democrats seem to be the ones with the most ideas of compromise. They're dismissing the 2.5 cent raise in Sales Tax as too high. They're offering 1 cent instead. Their reasoning is that the State needs to make back some of the revenues it is giving up by rolling back taxes.

The Democrats want to cap property tax increases and increase Homestead Exemptions to 1/2 of the MEDIAN property value of all homes in the county. This is actually an amazing idea. In Palm Beach County with the median household over $400,000, it would definitely benefit a huge number of citizens... but more importantly it would benefit the RIGHT Citizens.

Anyone who owns a house under homestead which is valued UNDER the Median will be assessed taxes on HALF the value of the improvements! This idea definitely benefits the lower and middle income homeowners as well as the seniors.

The higher income homeowners will get a break - it just won't be equitable to their lower income neighbors. There is sure to be a stink raised about this - especially by lobbyists... but it should calm down once the higher income homeowners realize that 1/2 the median property value is considerably higher than $25,000.

There will also be a cap on ALL increases that will help snowbirds and other non-homesteaded property owners.

The biggest sign of bi-partisan politics was in the area of valuation. The war between Palm Beach County and Broward County appraisers Gary Nikolits and Lori Parrish has spilled over into the capitol. Senators side with Ms. Parrish in her war of words that you cannot assess or appraise a property based on Potential Use but on Current Use. Her idea is that it is not the County's job to speculate on HABU (highest and best use) but instead to assess what is actually drawing in dollars.

Millions of dollars would be lost in revenue under this plan though. The 1% hike in sales tax will make up a portion of it but lawmakers will have to make some other concessions to be able to fund cities, counties, public hospitals, school districts and state government. Some of the things that could be affected instead of or along side sales tax are Slot Machines, Bio-Fuels, and Off Shore Drilling.

The best quote thus far is by State Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera R(Miami) "As far as I'm concerned, they [public agencies] weren't supposed to have this money in the first place."

On a Side note.. us Cell phone abusing Realtors and Mortgage Brokers are likely to get as much as a 30% break in taxes on our cell service... the average $50 cellphone bill has $15 in taxes! That should be cut soon! Think of how that money would help the state!

But now its time for me to go...
the Autumn moon light my way...
But I know I've got one thing I've got to do...
Ramble On...

Led Zeppelin

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