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Property tax reform can save money

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By Jeff M. Hardison

Using an average of 18 mills as a typical amount for Levy County taxpayers in the current tax year, Property Appraiser Francis Akins said property tax legislation on the Jan. 29, 2008 ballot could save some individual taxpayers $188.50 each.

About 40 percent of the people in Levy County who are qualified for Homestead Exemption will see no change in their tax bill from this legislation, Akins added.

The proposed legislation will mean zero additional savings for people who are qualified for Homestead Exemption, but who have an appraised property value of less than $50,000.

Akins told members and guests of the Chiefland Rotary Club about the proposed legislation during the club's Dec. 19 meeting.

The nuances and complexities of each appraised value, special exemptions and numbers of mills imposed by various taxing authorities makes this number of $188.50 serve only as an example, Akins said. The exemption amount equals different final tallies depending on millages charged by taxing authorities and values of appraised taxable property.

Taxing authorities such as the School Board, County Commission, city councils and water management districts set millage rates. The property appraiser sets the value of property in the county.

This year, the total value of taxable property in Levy County is approximately $2.2 billion, Akins said.

A significant part of property taxes pays for schools. Most Levy County taxpayers, for instance, see 40 percent of their tax bill going to pay the School Board, Akins said. The other 60 percent goes to the County Commission, city taxing authorities, and either the Suwannee River Water Management District or Southwest Florida Water Management District, and special assessments for fire, garbage and roads, Akins said.

Firefighter unions and teacher unions want voters to cast ballots against the proposed tax change, he said. Cuts to the general funds of counties, cities and school boards impact services by those government bodies.

If approved by 60 percent of the electors statewide at the Jan. 29, 2008 election the additional homestead exemption, Save Our Homes portability, and $25,000 Tangible Personal Property exemption will take effect retroactively back to Jan. 1, 2008.

Some of the following information was copied from a handout provided by Akins. He said the handout was lifted from the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office, because that office has lawyers who reviewed it and that property appraiser agreed to share the interpretation.

There are three major parts to the potential legislation: additional homestead exemption, Save Our Homes portability, and $25,000 Tangible Personal Property exemption.

ADDITIONAL HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION

The first part of the new bill gives property owners who are qualified for Homestead Exemption the following benefits:

* The same whole exemption on the first $25,000 worth of appraised taxable property value as exists today.

* Another partial exemption on the third $25,000 worth of appraised taxable value property value. There is no added exemption on property between $25,001 in value and $49,999 in value.

Here is how that works. Currently, people who are qualified for Homestead Exemption pay zero ad valorem property taxes on the first $25,000 of their home's value. The new exemption is partial for the appraised taxable value in the $50,000 to $75,000 range.

The new exemption would require payment on the School District taxes on the property appraised for taxes at the $50,000 to $75,000 range of, but the other millage would be exempt.

PORTABILITY

The Save Our Homes legislation from years ago did not allow for a taxpayer to move his or her qualification for Homestead Exemption, nor did it allow for the 2 percent to 3 percent cap on increased property values, which Save Our Homes guarantees.

The new legislation allows homeowners to transfer the Save Our Homes benefit to a new homestead, with a maximum value of $500,000. If the new homestead is more valuable than the old homestead, a taxpayer can transfer the entire old cap dollar amount - up to $500,000.

If the legislation is passed by referendum, homeowners who sold in 2007 and who apply for Homestead Exemption in 2008, will be able to transfer their old cap to the new residence. Homesteads sold in 2006 and before, however, will not be qualified for this portability.

If adopted, the new law allows two years, starting from 2007, for homeowners to transfer their cap to their new homestead.

$25,000 TANGIBLE PROPERTY EXEMPTION

This part of the proposed legislation grants a new $25,000 exemption for tangible person property (TPP). All TPP taxpayers must still file a TPP Return. If adopted, the legislation gives a $25,000 exemption from TPP taxes to all levies on the 2008 tax roll.