A Rant on Florida Property Taxes (October 21, 2007 view)

A Rant on Florida Property Taxes (October 21, 2007 view)
I called it a “soap opera”. One of the Florida legislature members called it a “toga party”. The Florida legislature is once again in special session on property tax tinkering or more correctly, offloading taxes from the already much advantaged homesteaders on to non-homesteaded property owner snowbirds. In “New tax plan old pitfalls”  and many other articles in Florida’s papers, the latest chapter in the property tax “reform” saga is reported as perceived by the Miami Herald.
Well there is progress, at least in that they are now mentioning the dreaded s-word…that is SNOWBIRDS. In another 5-10 years they may actually do something about it (because they’ll have no choice). What they fail to see, is that by the time real estate values are back at 2001 levels in Florida , the taxes of homesteaders should have risen almost to the level of snowbirds (unless they keep increasing homesteaders’ exemptions, which they are). It just shows you how naïve I am; I always assumed that the discriminatory treatment of snowbirds was a result of collateral damage from good intentions of SOH amendment to cap expenditures and protect seniors/low-income residents from being squeezed out of their homes due to property taxes, when in fact it is a calculated plan to rip-off snowbirds (and get re-elected). But then perhaps I am wrong and they’ll do the right thing, right now?
Actually, I would much rather live without a taxable property value cap (one of the options that are supposedly also beneficial to snowbirds) until SOH is found unconstitutional by the courts, if they would only leave the system the way it is for now (i.e. current discriminatory SOH), because, so far every proposal that has been tabled, like “super-exemption”, portability, extra $25,000 homestead exemption, 40% of median price exemption, additional business exemptions are all mechanisms (scams) to off-load taxes from homesteaders onto non-homesteaded snowbirds. With property values continuing to fall in Florida, the last thing we need to worry about in the next 5-10 years is a cap on taxable value! All that’s happening in the legislature just proves that we will not have any relief unless the courts order it. It’s time to focus on that!
On a related development, the AARP response to support the snowbirds quest to end the discriminatory treatment they receive in Florida is encapsulated in an email response from Clare Hushbeck of the AARP. “We feel it is a reasonable supposition that people who are fortunate enough to own a second home are not in a category of “need” that makes it reasonable to grant them tax relief.” i.e. soak the “rich snowbirds”. As if somebody who bought a $40,000 condo in Century Village in 2000 is by definition rich? Or as Stan Chamberlin at http://www.actffret.com indicated in “Florida AARP against the United States”, a reply to Ms. Hushbeck, “You give no consideration to AARP’s northern members who are retired schoolteachers, firemen, factory workers, office clerks, widows and others who scrimped and saved for years so they could own a modest $150,000 Florida condo. You’re in favour of making them pay the same tax as a Floridian owning a $500,000 home.”
It is outrageous that they haven’t even bothered to do the necessary research to understand that SOH is not about low income; it is about being a Florida homesteader and having bought your property before 2000.
They also don’t understand that it is about a system whereby there are two types of taxpayers:
1. those who vote and don’t care about how much of the taxpayers money the spendthrift politicians waste and can demand unlimited services at zero cost to themselves, because their taxes are capped (and are paid by snowbirds and businesses), and
2. those who can’t vote, use only a few of the services and for only for 3-4 months a year, but have to just sit and watch powerlessly their taxes increase at 25-30% per year over five years, and there is nothing they can do about it!
I think the AARP needs to take a more common sense approach and re-do the analysis of their position and issue an apology to the about one million non-homesteaded snowbirds, many of whom are about to become ex-AARP members.

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