During his bid for governor, Democrat Andrew Gillum has reminded voters constantly that he isn't a millionaire like some of the other candidates who sought the office.
But a review of property and tax records shows that Gillum is paying extra taxes when he doesn't need to. The Tallahassee mayor has failed to claim a homestead exemption on a nearly 3,200-square-foot home he owns with his wife in a suburban neighborhood located in the northeast part of the state capital.
When asked about it this week, Gillum was unaware he had not claimed an exemption for the house he bought for more than $400,000 in late 2014.
"Is that right?" Gillum said. "I need to find out if that's the case. I should be taking advantage of it."
The oversight is unusual since records show that Gillum had received a homestead exemption for a decade on his previous home that was located a mile away. A rough calculation shows that Gillum paid about $500 more in taxes last year because he did not file for the exemption.
Homeowners in Florida pay local property taxes that are based on the value of their home, but the state allows homeowners to shield up to $50,000 of the value of their primary residence from most taxes. It's a hefty tax break that many Floridians use. This year's preliminary tax roll shows that there are nearly 4.5 million parcels in Florida that receive a homestead exemption.
And that tax break could get even bigger this year if voters approve Amendment 1 this November.
The amendment, which is opposed by many local government officials, would add another $25,000 to the value of the existing exemption. But this additional break would only apply to homes that are worth $100,000 or more.
The proposal is expected to save homeowners about $644 million a year, which has led to fears from city and county governments that passage of the amendment could lead to dramatic cuts in everything from police to park services.
If passed by 60 percent of voters it would be one of the most substantial tax cuts pushed through since then-Gov. Charlie Crist and the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature put together a substantial property tax overhaul a decade ago.
Gillum, who in his role as mayor votes annually on property tax rates for Tallahassee residents, has already come out in opposition to the amendment.