Amendment 4 a boon for first-time home buyers, but counties cringe at potential loss of millions
Shawn Merritt, who bought a new house in Wesley Chapel last month, has 3,000 reasons to vote for Amendment 4.
As a first-time home buyer, he'd get a property tax break that would save him $1,000 in 2013 and an additional $2,000 over the next four years.
"That would be sweet," said Merritt, 24, who paid $165,000 for his 2,384-square-foot home. "I could use the money elsewhere."
So could the other big beneficiaries of Amendment 4: property owners who don't claim a homestead exemption, including investors, businesses, and owners of rentals and second homes.
But so could Pasco County budget chief Mike Nurrenbrock.
Passage of Amendment 4 would cost Pasco well more than $6 million over four years, according to a "conservative'' estimate by the Florida Association of Counties.
Over the past four years, Nurrenbrock has seen his county reduce hours at parks and libraries and eliminate more than 200 positions. It faces a $5.3 million shortfall for next year.
"Pretty soon the cuts will be to essential services," said Nurrenbrock.
It's the same all over the state. Amendment 4 goes before Florida voters in November at a time when the recession has forced county and city governments to trim spending over the past five years by $3 billion. If the amendment passes, they'll have to cut another $600 million by 2015, according to a legislative analysis, with more to come.