Today's Letters: Mayor's property tax remedies are too limited

Published May 2, 2007

Five steps to sensible property tax relief April 26, commentary by Rick Baker  

I am very disappointed in the solutions offered by St. Petersburg's mayor for property tax relief. While he indicates an awareness of the disparity caused by our current system, he provides no solutions that will help rectify this problem. Furthermore, there seems to be no significant help mentioned in his five proposals for young families, businesses or recent buyers who are bearing the brunt of escalating budgets.

If the Save Our Homes legislation (the root of current inequities) must survive, then disproportionate relief is clearly needed to better distribute tax burdens. Doubling the homestead exemption for everyone will have little impact on restoring equity. Portability only allows fortunate homeowners to keep their current advantage.

The implication that small reductions in the millage rates have led to lower tax bills is misleading. The reality is that due to escalating real estate prices, tax dollars have increased steadily.

Also, while the proposed 8 percent cap on nonhomesteaded property sounds generous, in reality it allows taxes to double every seven years. This seems quite unreasonable given inflation around 3 percent, and I doubt many small businesses or renters will be able to withstand these increases long.

Unfortunately, I believe that if the measures outlined by the mayor are adopted, relief will be short-lived and we will be addressing this problem again. There is no doubt that if government spending is not capped (another noticeable omission in Mayor Rick Baker's plan) and St. Petersburg's millage rate remains the highest in the county, the housing crisis will continue. I believe lawmakers must seek solutions that diversify our tax base and also do more to end current inequities.

Richard Knipe, St. Petersburg

Lawmakers should pay attention

I read with interest St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker's article on property tax relief. It was thoughtful, it was specific, it was quantitative, it was fair, it was a plan.

That kind of thoughtful solution by an experienced, capable administrator is what is required to get the property tax issue resolved, fairly and equitably. It is the best plan that I have heard. I hope Tallahassee is listening.

Paul Chiavacci, St. Petersburg

Cap the spending

Mayor Rick Baker's recent column on property tax reform acknowledges the inequity and high yearly tax increases for owners of nonhomestead property. His proposal of a one-year rollback in assessments and a yearly cap of 8 percent is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't go far enough.

While Nevada's 8 percent cap is cited as a model of a tax cap, there are numerous other states that have lower caps on nonhomestead property. His proposal is a short-term solution, since a 5 percentage-point difference in a tax cap between homesteaded and nonhomesteaded properties will in a short time see the current situation repeated.

How about putting a cap on government spending? If a 3 percent cap is what homestead owners have, why not put the same cap on government spending? If you only cap the increase in property assessments, what is to prevent the government, from increasing the millage rate? A cap on spending would rein in these bloated government budgets.

Al Zvinakis, St. Petersburg

Major surgery needed

As a regular reader of the St. Petersburg Times, I've had a hard time keeping up with proposed tax legislation flying out of Tallahassee. It seems to me that the solutions that are being proposed are merely Band-Aids for a gaping wound that needs major surgery.

For example, giving homeowners a pacifier of an additional $25, 000 homestead exemption would lower real estate taxes very little. The elephant in the living room is the issue of whether an individual who bought a home within the past few years, when Florida property values shot up, should continue to pay far higher taxes for a house that is exactly like his neighbor's. I believe this is called a subsidy.

The shouts of glee from people who feel they lucked out and bought their homes before prices skyrocketed and consequently aren't paying their fair share of the tax burden are deafening. And now, many of these homeowners want to cash out and move their tax cap to a new home. Please, let's throw out the Band-Aids and do some major surgery so Florida taxes are not only reduced, but also are shared equally.

Dorothy Behling, Belleair

Don't cut taxes

I am certainly tempted by politicians' promises to reduce my taxes, but my conscience reminds me of our responsibilities to those in need and especially to the children of this state. Florida has still not fully provided the class size reduction mandated by voters in 2002. Prekindergarten programs lack adequate funds. Spending for Florida's universities ranks very near the bottom compared to other states. Tens of thousands of our children have been denied access to the child health insurance program, and a recent newspaper article reported that the disabled in Florida often wait up to six years before receiving needed services.

This is not a high-tax state. There are inequities in the system. Poorer citizens pay a much higher percentage of their income in taxes. Our Legislature should redesign the tax system to make it fairer, but that would not include reducing real estate assessments or raising the sales tax. I say no to property tax reduction.

Richard Rolfes, St. Petersburg

Tax swap runs into words of caution April 26, story

Remember those in the middle

This article, concerning the elimination of property taxes in exchange for an increase in sales tax, addresses an issue that has concerned me for some time. The article references financial issues for the rich versus the poor. As a retired baby boomer on a fixed income, I am sick and tired of being ignored when issues of this nature arise.

Many of the poor are receiving welfare (paid by tax dollars), and may not pay any taxes at all, while the rich have tax loopholes and deductions. The working middle class and the retirees are paying the taxes and should be receiving some tax relief as well. People in the middle class, whether working or retired, are being slowly eliminated in deference to the rich and the poor. Soon there will be no middle class, and wasn't that the crux of communism?

Michele Klein, New Port Richey

Tax relief? Try gambling May 1, story

Try real relief

This gambling tax solution will soak the poor and give to the rich, especially the special interests that are buying this legislation and our so-called public servants.

Are Florida's senators and representatives going to sell out their citizens in the name of tax relief? I certainly hope not.

How about some solutions for real tax relief: Charge sales tax on services. I'm in the service business and I have always felt it was foolish not to do this. Consider those poor multimillionaires who can spend up to $11, 000 an hour (read the Times) for a lawyer but can't afford to pay their fair share, or the multimillion-dollar advertising market where sales tax is not charged either. What's wrong with this picture?

The Save Our Homes amendment was one of the most foolish things to ever occur. But before you point out that in was put on the ballot by the voters, this was partly due to a total lack of response from our elected officials.

The proper solution then was to adjust the homestead exemption based on inflation or other factors. Unfortunately, now it's probably not possible to bring sanity back to that situation. Please do not sell us out.

David M. Duff, Pinellas Park

Tax relief? Try gambling May 1, story

A casino solution

Maybe someone is finally going to realize that this state should have gambling casinos to help with the state's tax problem. Look at the revenue that other states are gaining and we are losing by not having legalized gambling.

Bingo-style machines are not the answer. Do it right the first time and install Vegas-style machines, which will generate more players than the bingo-style machines.

With legalized gambling, the revenue generated would take care of the tax problems, and also if done right, it could help out Citizens Insurance's problems.

Stephen and Loris Los, Palm Harbor