Something doesn't smell right about Buddy Johnson's cattle operation. The Hillsborough County elections chief bought a piece of property last year for $800,000. He subdivided the 20 acres into six lots, plunked down some cows and applied for a huge tax break, calling it agricultural land. The county property appraiser should take a hard look at this one.
Johnson is seeking a lucrative tax break called a "greenbelt" exemption, which could reduce the assessed value of the land to $5,855 from $614,428, the St. Petersburg Times’ Jeff Testerman reported Thursday. According to the appraiser's office, the break, if granted, would lower Johnson's estimated property tax bill from $12,626 to $120.
The property had a greenbelt exemption before Johnson purchased it, and Johnson said getting the break himself factored into his decision to buy the property. But the issue to the appraiser's office is whether the current operation is legitimate. Johnson said he leased the land to a cattle farmer, and hosts 11 head of cattle. But he could not recall Thursday when the cattle came onto his property.
The appraiser's office has until July 1 to decide whether the operation is a bona fide agriculture use. If Johnson is farming for a tax break, and not really for a living, the public needs to know.