Today's Letters: Floridians need real property tax relief
By LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published April 26, 2007
I have to applaud the House for thinking outside the box and truly trying to propose a relief plan for the taxpayers of Florida. Although when I first read the proposal I believed it would be too aggressive for the general public and/or local governments to stomach, in my opinion it was a true attempt at trying to regain some normalcy for the property holders in Florida.
As for the Senate plan, the senators should be embarrassed. I read about some members bragging how easy it was to get a unanimous vote for the plan. And why shouldn't they get a quick vote? The Senate plan proposed hardly any benefit, if any at all in the long run, for the average Floridian. It was a plan that just deferred property taxes for new homeowners or those moving to a different house with the impending 10 percent annual increase lurking in the background to worry about later.
All it is, is a shell game. This plan does nothing for those homeowners who recently purchased a home or for those who have had steadily increasing property taxes and have no plans to move. This coupled with the insurance crisis (a whole other topic) leaves those with fixed incomes wondering how to get by.
I am tired of reading about how the governments will have a hard time providing services if the property taxes get rolled back to 2001 levels. Truth is, the local governments have become "fat, dumb and happy" with this newfound wealth and are having a wonderful time spending the windfall of property tax money generated by the recent escalation of home prices. Were 911 calls not being answered back in 2001? Were fires burning uncontrollably in 2001?
We Floridians need real change. Budgets need to be cut back significantly and, as the House proposed, some possible shifting of revenue generation. I urge lawmakers to deliver to Floridians a property tax plan that provides real benefits to property tax owners.
Kim Gilbert, Tampa
Tax holes gape in cities April 23, story
Stop the tax drain
At a time when many of St. Petersburg's "average" residents are having difficulty paying their high city and county property taxes, along with their high homeowners insurance and utility bills, I find it hard to believe city officials are considering adding another city property tax draining TIF (tax increment financing) district around an industrial center of the city when the city already has three others.
These TIF districts have "claimed" huge sums of city and county tax dollars, according to this story, with around $97.4-million pledged in 2005 for the next 30 years to fund massive repairs for the Mahaffey Theater and the Pier along with other luxuries.
This money could have been spent on additional police officers or to really lower taxes. Instead the city's stressed taxpayers receive token tax millage rate cuts.
The original purpose of the TIFs was to improve blighted communities/areas. I never considered the Mahaffey Theater and the Pier as blighted, and they would have never needed additional city tax dollars for repairs or improvements if they were run by self-sustaining private businesses.
The city officials have made the Pier and the Mahaffey Theater city taxpayer funded expensive "showcases." Now is the time for the city officials to sell these facilities to private companies, while they're in excellent condition, and stop the further TIF dollar drain from the city coffers to give the average city taxpayer some relief.
Rod Moren, St. Petersburg
Recent articles in the Times suggest that the state Legislature may be rushing toward elimination of the property tax. In a state without an income tax, getting rid of the property tax would seem bizarre at best.
Property evaluations have risen rapidly in the past few years. An easy, first step might be for the Legislature to order assessors to adjust assessed values downward in light of the recent decline in the housing market. That would give immediate relief to the public and give the Legislature more time for a thoughtful review of the problem.
As insurance costs and interest rates rise, demand for housing shrinks. If you look at the ads in the Times, the prices of existing homes and condos are substantially lower than they were a year ago. Assessed values should reflect that. They should not be a one-way street.
Roy Sandstrom, Dunedin
Limit revenue growth
The problem with a property tax roll-back is that the Legislature is trying to do it the easy way and it is just too hard.
Property tax is the total of a lot of different authorized taxes. Trying to roll them all back the same amount or in the same way is easy to talk about, but it is wrong.
The Legislature should create a set of rules for revenue growth limits. The rules should be specific for the purpose of each tax. For example, a school operating levy should have a revenue growth limit based on the increase in the number of students. A health service tax revenue limit should be based on population. Fire service tax revenue limits should be based on property values less land values. All of those examples should be adjusted for inflation as well.
Tax levies that service debt for capital investments should have revenue limits set at the amount necessary to service the debt, with no inflation adjustments.
Once the revenue growth limit for each type of property tax element is decided, the Legislature should require that the taxing districts apply the limits to their current property tax components. Property taxes should be reduced to those limits, now.
After this is done, the Legislature should require that the rules be applied each year so that the tax revenues are adjusted to the revenue limits every year. Finally, the Legislature should require that all future tax levies put to voters specify the revenue limitation mechanism that will apply to that tax, if approved.
We don't have to fix this over and over if we fix it right, once.
John Borrows, director, the Florida Tax Project, Indian Shores
High tax bias
As a Republican I've become numbed to the levels of bias displayed in both the editorial content as well as the news stories found in the St. Petersburg Times, but even I am blushing lately.
Every day we hear of the terrible hardships that local governments, flush with twice the cash they had only six years ago, are going to endure if they're forced to stop taking our hard-earned money at four and five times the rate of inflation.
How about some stories about Floridians forced to leave the state because property taxes and insurance are lowering our standard of living? How about an article about real estate agents losing contracts once the buyers are told of their expected tax on the property on which they're about to make an offer? Maybe an article about the poor homeowners who are forced to sell their homes at deep discounts because they cannot afford to live there anymore?
The bottom line is that I need my income more than the local government needs my income, and I would appreciate it if the Times would stop shilling for keeping our taxes high.
Eriq Breland, Palm Harbor
What about the poor?
Has everyone in Tallahassee gone crazy? Do many of them really feel our whole state's economy can be run on the regressive sales tax? The most unfair tax of all is the sales tax because the poor are expected to pay at the same rate as the rich. This is just one more way the Legislature tries to please all of the rich property owners who have one, two, three houses while the poor working individual cannot afford even one house.
Is there anyone in Tallahassee representing the poor working class or the elderly on fixed incomes? Is there anyone in Tallahassee representing me?
Margaret Hyde, Clearwater
Count your blessings
I am so tired of reading letters from the owners of second homes about the discrepancy between the taxes they pay on their second homes and those their neighbor pays on their primary home. That discrepancy is a luxury tax because your "vacation" home is a luxury.
The homestead exemption and Save Our Homes cap are meant to protect people from losing the only home they have. They pay property taxes because they are blessed with a home. Snowbirds pay more because they are blessed with two.
Lynette Benson Theisen, St. Petersburg
Voters have the power
I have to keep from laughing out loud as I was reading the letters to the editor complaining about the "out of control" government spending. These "out of control" elected government officials were put in office by the voters; they did not just magically appear.
For a long time the term "tax and spend Democrats" was a rallying cry of the Republican Party. I think it is safe to now transfer that moniker to the Republicans. This should be a wake-up call to people: Please vote.
Jay Kenney, Seminole
[Last modified April 25, 2007, 21:11:08]
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