Save Our Homes has divided Florida into tax-break haves and Have-Nots
Backfire: Lee County Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson, who created Save Our Homes, says he thought the plan would put pressure on local governments to control their millage. "It just whetted their appetite."
It's unlikely that Florida voters will repeal Save Our Homes, but some taxpayers and elected officials are studying changes to the system. Among the considerations, a law or constitutional amendment to directly limit local spending growth -- a prospect that local budget drafters find frightening because of its inflexibility. The Property Tax Reform Committee has members on both sides of the question. "I have a serious fundamental problem with spending caps," member RichardSpears said at a meeting in October in Miami. "Control is with local elected people. If they get crazy about spending, we traditionally throw the bums out.
But committee Chairman DeFosset counters that because of Save Our Homes and the homestead exemption, "the vast majority of voters are not feeling the pain" that taxpayers such as landlords and small-business owners find burdensome. Also, some local districts responsible for spending increases are outside voter control, he notes.
One loud voice in the statewide discussion is Wilkinson, the Save Our Homes creator. He dismisses city and county objections to the amendment. "Have you seen any starving governments?" he says. And as to recent home buyers clobbered by the tax burden shift, "Although they hate me now, they'll love me in 10 years."
But he has proposed a new constitutional amendment to make Save Our Homes a movable tax break. "I don't want (to do) another constitutional amendment. It's not fun. It's not easy," he says. But something must be done, he says.
SAVE OUR COASTAL HOMES?
Coastal homeowners have been the biggest winners from the Save Our Homes amendment. Proof? The closer Florida residents live to the coast, the bigger the differential between the Save Our Homes value of their homes and the appraised value of the homes.
In coastal Monroe County (the Florida Keys), for example, the differential is more than $244,000. The gap between the Save Our Homes value of homes in inland counties is much smaller. In
landlocked Hardee County, the differential is only $6,750.
The state's Property Tax Reform Committee (propertytaxreform.state.fl.us) is set to release an initial report this month for the Legislature. The Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission starts work in 2007.