Obvious injustice could doom property tax system, 12/15

Letters to the Editor
Published December 15, 2006

Political stunts aren't tax reform Dec. 13 

In your editorial, you did not mention possibly the greatest specter haunting Florida. That specter has to do with the 1.2-million nonresident owners of Florida property. When factored into Florida property taxation, the entire system looks like a "stunt."

Nonresidents are not entitled, under law, to the homestead exemption. From this it follows they are also not entitled to the Save Our Homes tax cap. The consequence is that such property owners are paying, in some instances, up to 10 times as much in taxes. And yes, for essentially similar property.

This is happening in a country with a major charge of "establishing justice." There seems to be a little inconsistency here, i.e. Florida law squaring with the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, we live in a country where we value a government "deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed," and "no taxation without representation." Nonresidents have no input into Florida's legislative halls. So it's not only Denmark where "something is rotten."

Now the U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled out disparities between residents and nonresidents. The court did say, however, that a "substantial equality" or a "rough parity" must exist between the two groups. If not, such laws are void.

I dare say that the present system in no way approaches these standards. Thus the Florida property tax system, with its invidious discrimination against nonresidents, may soon find itself in federal court trying to justify an obvious injustice. And the outcome does not look pretty.

Kenneth J. Kania, St. Petersburg

Political stunts aren't tax reform Dec. 13, editorial

Rein in government

You beg the question when you state that the Save Our Homes legislation is the biggest current problem with property taxes. Basically, Save Our Homes limits increases in the taxable value of a property to no more than 3 percent a year. That seems reasonable to me. The biggest current problem we taxpayers have is the rapacious appetite of local and county governments for more and more revenue. If they can take your money, they'll sure find a way to spend it.

A fair way to determine revenues to taxing agencies in toto would be to pick a base year and determine the per capita tax load. As the population grows, the revenue would also increase. I would even grant them a formula to factor in a percentage of increase due to inflation. Basically, what is the per person tax load from the county, city and state today versus what it was 10 years ago?

I've seen it too often. When a taxing entity loses population, it increases tax rates to cover the loss of tax base. When population is growing, these entities increase taxes per capita to provide revenue for the expanded services necessary. Don't the new residents pay taxes?

Mike Lyons, Apollo Beach

Saving our homes

It is disappointing that you do not understand the situation of the majority of your readers that are not real estate investors. Most of us just want to live and try to keep up with the yearly tax increases. Even with Save Our Homes, we get a 3 percent annual increase in taxes. Oftentimes our incomes do not keep up with this.

The cost of living in Florida should not be based on the lifestyle and cost of oversized and overpriced homes created by a wealthier class of people.

If families choose to stay in a home, they are granted a homestead exemption and will benefit from a Save Our Homes tax classification, rather than be subjected to the taxes and costs of those who wish to live a higher lifestyle. This is not only fair, but also offers a way for people of less means to live in Florida. Please try to stay in touch with the "Other Florida."

Dennis Devine, San Antonio

Cut the tax rate

The solution to the property tax question is simple. It doesn't matter what the value of the house is, or what kind of exemptions there are on the property. What matters is what the tax rate is.

Reduce the tax rate each year to compensate for the increasing property value so that the tax dollars remain the same. Of course, this would require the government to live within its means, just like you and I.

Insist that your local government reduce the tax rate. That's the immediate solution.

John Avery, St. Petersburg

Prepare to protest

I would like to issue a challenge to incoming Gov. Charlie Crist and our state Legislature.

In the first three months of 2007, please fix this crisis on escalating property taxes and insurance premiums, which will eventually cause thousands of Floridians to lose their homes and businesses and wreck the state's economy. Time is of the essence. This is an emergency.

If no action is taken by April, then maybe tens of thousands, or better yet hundreds of thousands of Floridians should put on their walking and biking shoes, and march up U.S. 19 to the grounds of the state Capitol in Tallahassee. And once there, these Floridians should stay there until the problem is fixed. It would offer some great exercise, get people out of the office for a couple of weeks, and surely get the attention of the top brass.

Remember the tens of thousands of truckers who descended on the French Parliament buildings a few years back to protest fuel taxes? They did not leave until the government rescinded those taxes.

Jeff Francis, St. Petersburg

Schools looking to extend 4-year tax Dec. 13, story

Tax skepticism

Pinellas County school district officials want to extend for 10 years the special tax enacted by referendum in 2004. Although I support performance pay for teachers, just how much property tax is enough to support our schools?

If the taxable value of county property was $50-billion in 2004 and now tops $75-billion, this equates to a 50 percent increase in revenues for the district in two years. I fail to see the need to extend a special school tax on top of such revenue increases. The Times should report on the revenues provided the school district vs. student enrollments for a more transparent evaluation.

Stanley Domal, St. Petersburg

Going bare

Sorry, fellow Florida homeowners, but your homeowners insurance premium is about to get worse. Come next renewal, we're bowing out and you'll have to cover our share of Citizens Property Insurance Corp.'s extortion.

After 50-plus years of paying thousands for coverage for which we have collected less than $1,200 for one burglary incident (a fraction of what we lost), we've decided enough is enough. We've "screwed our courage to the sticking point" and decided we bought into the fear peddled by the insurance industry for the last time. We're going bare. I remember a similar situation 20 years ago when a host of businesses boldly decided to do without coverage. The world didn't collapse.

The rest of you will have to chip in to make up for the share we are unwilling to pay. A half-million of you, more or less, can chip in an extra buck - or two, or ten, or whatever - and cover for us.

Good luck to those we leave behind, the insurance lords and their victims. As for us, we feel freer already.

Ron Szary, Port Richey

Donor gets approval for helipad Dec. 13, story

It won't fly

Here we go again: another Hillsborough County Commission full of takers.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe says he voted for the helipad at the Carrollwood home of an oil executive because we need to support alternative transportation.

How many people in Hillsborough County are going to build a helipad? Come on, Mark, not all the people in Hillsborough County are that naive, just the ones who voted for you!

D.J. Holding, Dover

Pedal to the mettle Nov. 28, story, Life Times section

Cycling seniors

What an inspiration! The couple who rode their bicycles from Seminole to Texas are something else. To take on such an experience at their age is unreal! They have many memories and must be proud of such an accomplishment. I could imagine some 40-year-olds doing that, but not people in their 70s. More power to them.

Thank you for giving us such a positive story.

Virginia Norris, Safety Harbor