The Property Tax Crisis in Paradise – Florida Welcomes(?) Snowbirds
When I purchased a condo in Florida in 2000, one of my neighbors told me that I just bought a piece of paradise. And sure enough, since becoming a Snowbird after my retirement I’ve been enjoying the escape from the Canadian winters.
What I did not realize that is that there are two paradises. One is for Florida homesteaders and another for non-homesteaders (essentially Snowbirds who are out-of-state or out-of-country residents, like residents of Michigan, New York or Canada). A significant proportion of the homesteaders’ paradise is paid for by the disproportionate property taxes paid by non-homesteaders.
Let me give you a flavor of the inequity that Snowbirds are subjected to as a result of the so called “Save Our Homes” amendment to the Florida constitution:
- it is not uncommon for Snowbirds to live in the identical condos, yet paying double or triple the property taxes of their homesteader neighbors (Unequal taxation!)
- property taxes have almost tripled since buying my condo in late 2000
- since local and county government spend rate has been growing at 20%/year, and my property taxes have been increasing at about 30%/year since 2002, the burden of taxation has been steadily shifting to non-homesteaders.
- homesteaders (so long as they don’t move to a new residence) have essentially their property value increases capped to the level of inflation; however since property values have been rising so rapidly, mil rates have stayed stable or slightly fallen, just enough that homesteader property taxes have not increased ( or even dropped)
- snowbirds/non-homesteaders place a much lighter load on local services than full-time residents (consuming services only a part of the year and usually don’t have children in schools), yet pay disproportionately higher taxes
Some possible solutions?
- all property owners (tax payers) should be allowed to vote in municipal and county elections (Taxation without representation!)
- municipal and county governmental expenses should be limited to inflation and population growth levels
- past three year spending increases should be rolled back to above formula
- eliminate homesteaders’ “Save Our Homes” tax cap, so that voters in local government elections will contain spending (there are other mechanisms to deal with low income residents than “Save Our Homes”)
- do not enact currently proposed “Save Our Homes Portability” as it will just aggravate current situation and delay much needed action to resolve the crisis
My back of the envelope calculations indicates $2-4B annual excess payments by residential non-homesteaders in Florida. Perhaps, as a retired Canadian enjoying a few winter months in Florida I am a tolerated guests (t)here, but this gross inequity is strangely tolerated by out of state Americans as well. It’s beyond my understanding why this is not being challenged on constitutional or other grounds in the courts, other than perhaps, the absolute total lack of interest in the Florida legal community to take on this challenge.
If you are already a non-homestead property owner in Florida, I urge you to ad your voice to the Homeowners Against Runaway Taxation, who are doing great work trying to get visibility to this crisis. Use every opportunity to articulate the inequity and spread the word so that grassroots action can emerge.
If you are not yet a property owner in Florida, I am not trying to dissuade you from becoming one (in fact, as I am writing this in February 2007, prices have gone down in the past year perhaps as much as 15-20% and property taxes may follow, but who am I kidding?). The paradise, that my neighbors congratulated me to have bought into, is still wonderful. There are distinct advantages to February in Florida rather than Canada. But you better understand: (i)all the costs so that you are able to carry the expenses, and (ii)the inequity so that you are willingly carrying an unfair share of the load.