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Today's Letters: The pros and cons of Amendment 1
Letters to the Editor
Published January 23, 2008
Vote yes on Amendment 1Jan. 20 letter
We all benefit from public purse
The writer wrote, "If you're getting a piece of the pie, vote against the Amendment 1 tax proposal. All others, vote for it." He seems to think only "public employees and elected officials" get any benefit from local property taxes and he doesn't.
He is wrong. He is a direct beneficiary of police and fire protection. He can go to our libraries and parks. A quality public education system benefits us all, whether you are a parent with a child in school or a retiree getting a prescription filled by someone educated in our schools.
We all get "a piece of the pie." By his logic, Amendment 1 should go down to defeat without a single "yes" vote.
Economy needs help of tax cut
I support Amendment 1. I believe the current bad economic conditions in the housing market are a result of the flawed property tax structure. We need change now.
The current property tax is regressive. It tends to bear down harder on those poorer families because they spend so much more of their income on housing. Voting "yes" on the amendment will exempt an additional $25,000 from taxable value thereby allowing those on fixed or low to moderate incomes to pay less taxes. This freed-up tax money can then be used to buy other goods and services that would bolster the economy.
The property tax is divisive. Since the true value of any property can't be known until it is sold, it requires assessors to estimate values, which has resulted in huge differences and inequities within districts. These value differences and inequities have pitted neighbor against neighbor, district against district. Voting "yes" on the amendment would help level these value differences by exempting an additional $25,000 and allowing homeowners the flexibility to keep or take with them their current savings.
Voting "yes" will be the first step in reversing the bad effects high property taxes have had on the housing economy.
Lynda Ghaedi, Spring Hill
Rescue services would be cut back
If you are thinking about voting "yes" on Amendment 1, I would ask you to think again.
By now most voters have heard a lot of information about this ill-conceived tax plan. We've heard that most homeowners will get a small monthly reduction of about $20 per month, while some of us may see an actual increase. We've heard how on one hand the amendment may stimulate the real estate market, but on the other will create vast inequities among neighbors. Yes, both sides are debating the pros and cons and what could possibly happen to our tax system if it passes.
I fight fires for a living so I am probably not fully qualified to weigh in on issues best left to economists. But I do know this: If this amendment passes, fire services - also known as first responder services - will be dramatically hindered and many more people will die as a result.
The typical firefighter does a great deal more than douse flames. Most often we are first on the scene when someone suffers a heart attack or stroke. We are the ones rushing with life-saving equipment, hoping that we made it on time.
The key to successfully fighting a fire and to saving the lives of the people inside depends on how quickly we can get to the scene. That means better communications, a highly prepared and trained crew and fire stations strategically located throughout the community. All of these things save lives and all of these things cost money.
The money to pay for this comes from property taxes. Amendment 1 will force unprecedented cuts in fire-rescue and fire-related services, at a time when our fire-rescue department should be expanding along with our county.
As a homeowner myself, I know that taxes can sometimes be a burden. I, too, feel frustrated with rising property insurance, escalating interest payments, and a rising cost of living. But Amendment 1 offers average homeowners like me very little in the way of tax savings, yet it directly strips away my ability to serve my community as a firefighter and paramedic.
I save lives and property for a living and I think what I do makes a difference in the community I serve. I have seen the eyes and the relief of those I have helped and have also felt the pain of those I could not - and that's why I am voting "no."
Paul Totten, secretary, Pasco County Council of Firefighters
Portability would spark market
The right to property is essential to the American dream, and when that right is threatened by unexpected, unbearable spikes in property taxes, relief must be provided, and the comprehensive constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters on Jan. 29, will provide that relief.
One of the key provisions in the relief package allows homeowners to transfer their Save Our Homes tax benefit to a new home. This policy, called portability, will spark Florida's economy with only a minimal impact on local government. When one family downsizes into a smaller home that better meets their needs, thanks to portability, another family can afford to move into that home. This policy eliminates the "lock-in effect," which has prevented homeowners - often seniors or empty nesters - from moving into smaller homes as their needs or lifestyles changed. Portability gives Floridians the freedom to choose where to live and what sort of home to buy based on the needs of their families, not on a failed tax policy. And, the homeowner will continue to enjoy the Save Our Homes 3 percent cap.
The amendment also doubles the homestead exemption, providing an additional $25,000 exemption for the value of homestead property above $50,000 (excluding school taxes). This will allow the tax benefit to keep pace with the increased price of housing; more than 94 percent of Florida homeowners will enjoy tax relief under the increased exemption. Once approved by the voters, this benefit will provide immediate relief on your next tax bill and not two or three years from now.
The proposed constitutional amendment creates a new exemption from taxes on tangible personal property of $25,000 and eliminates the need for businesses and owners of manufactured homes to file a return if they have less than $25,000 in tangible personal property. This change will exempt over 1-million Floridians from this tax, out of a total of 1.2-million who currently pay it. Many Floridians spent more money complying with related paperwork than they owed in tangible taxes.
Small-business owners, second-home owners, renters, and others will benefit from the fourth component of the Legislature's tax relief plan, which places a 10 percent cap on assessments of non-homestead properties. Most non-homestead property owners have experienced sticker shock when looking at their tax bills in recent years. This cap provides predictability for all properties in Florida; no longer will property owners have to fear unexpected, large assessment spikes.
The American dream is alive and well in Florida, and this amendment will ensure that Floridians can continue making that dream a reality in their own lives. Please vote "yes."
Sen. Mike Fasano, New Port Richey
Cost of services will fall to others
When a politician tells you he is going to give you something, and someone else will pay for it, get ready to duck. Amendment 1 is a suckers' bet, and will give at best short-term relief and then most likely disaster.
You should use the brain God gave you and hug a snowbird. They come down, spend money, pay the 7 percent sales tax and help your economy. They help to keep Florida businessmen in business. This means jobs for Florida residents.
If they own homes, they pay property taxes, and more importantly, school taxes. They do not utilize the school system, and this keeps your school taxes low. Lose these people and watch your school taxes skyrocket. In some Northern states the school tax alone on moderate two- or three-bedroom homes is up to $8,000, depending upon where the home is located. Snowbirds also pay for your parks and public services.
If this amendment passes and you push a greater tax on business, rental properties and second homes, guess what will happen? Businesses, to pay this tax, will pass it along to the consumer. Who is the consumer? Well, it is the Florida resident. If a business can't do this, they go out of business and jobs go with them. Then taxes revert to residential properties.
Tax rental properties and landlords will pass the tax along to renters. All renters are not snowbirds.
Remember a house is a commodity. Price is based on supply, demand and whether it is affordable. If you can afford to pay more because of portability and supply is static, the $200,000 home you were looking at will soon become a $300,000 property. What happens when prices increase and assessed valuation goes up? Property taxes increase. The only winner here will be the Realtor whose commission will increase.
Pass this amendment, chase the snowbirds and pay higher commodity prices, and pay your own local and school taxes if that is your wish. Look hard at this amendment. Al that glitters is not gold!!
Charles Ditta, New Port Richey
Lopsided system would get worse
Hopefully, most of us have read the various articles and commentaries on the pros and cons of Amendment 1. There are many points and arguments on each side. The real point is seldom, if ever, mentioned. It's mainly about greed.
Supporters of Amendment 1 - Realtors, longtime homeowners and others - want to make an already lopsided and unjust property tax system worse. Those already getting all the benefits want more at the expense of their neighbors, renters, new homeowners and others.
Portability is an extreme example of shifting taxes from one resident to another. Longtime homeowners haven't paid their fair share of taxes in years; now they want this privilege extended to the new property? I guess significant capital gains aren't enough.
You see, greed is the missing component nobody wants to talk about.
The richest class of U.S. citizens are our seniors. Most of the wealth, be it real estate, stocks, retirement plans, etc., are owned by seniors. Help poor seniors some other way. Don't exempt the richest class of our citizens and transfer that tax to families in their 20s, 30s and 40s.