Floridians will vote on two constitutional amendments that concern property taxes in the Nov. 3 general election. One, Amendment 5, is a commonsense correction that honors the original will of the voters in making homestead exemptions portable for a full two years. The other, Amendment 6, honors surviving spouses of older veterans who were disabled while fighting for their country. If 60 percent of voters approve of them, they will both take effect on Jan. 1. Both deserve to pass.
Amendment 5: If your house has a homestead exemption and you move, you currently have two years to carry that tax break along with you. Except you really don’t. To transfer the Save Our Homes exemption, Florida law says a homeowner must have “received a homestead exemption as of Jan. 1 of either of the two immediately preceding years.” So someone could easily miss out by selling a home late in the year and then building a new home that isn’t finished by New Year’s of the year after next — in other words, after only a year and a few days had passed.
Amendment 5, put on the ballot by the Legislature, would correct that by extending the Florida deadline to three years, a simple fix to make the Constitution reflect what voters actually intended, that homeowners could take their exemption with them for at least two full years. The idea came from Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty. If it passes, homeowners will be able to carry up to the same $500,000 in accumulated reduction in their assessment from one home to another, but for up to three years. On Amendment 5, the Times Editorial Board recommends voting yes.
Amendment 6: Currently, some Florida veterans get a discount on their property taxes if they are over 65, have been disabled by combat and were honorably discharged. The amount of their discount is the same percentage as their disability as determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Amendment 6 would allow a surviving spouse to retain that discount even after the veteran’s death if the spouse holds the title to the property and permanently lives there until that spouse remarries. This amendment also originated in the Legislature, and a House bill analysis said it would cost local governments up to $4 million annually. That seems a small price to pay to help surviving spouses of those permanently injured in service to their country afford to stay in their homes. On Amendment 6, the Times Editorial Board recommends voting yes.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news