Florida voters are considering a number of constitutional amendments in this November's election. Of those amendments, Amendment 1 if approved, would result in an unnecessary and unfair tax shift. The reduction in funding to local governments will mean reduced funding for essential services including law enforcement, fire response and children's services, among others. Voters should reject this flawed amendment.
Amendment 1 is a bait and switch proposal. Described by its legislative creators as a tax reduction measure, Amendment 1 is actually a tax shift that provides relief for a small percentage or property owners. Most Pinellas homes — two of three — would not qualify for the additional homestead exemption. Renters and businesses will receive no tax reduction from Amendment 1, and in fact may see their taxes increase if local governments raise tax rates to offset the loss of revenue from Amendment 1.
Amendment 1 would add a third homestead exemption only for primary homes with assessed value above $100,000. Assessed value is typically lower than a home's market value. This means that only a portion of higher-value homes would qualify, while all other properties would receive no tax benefit.
The impact to Pinellas County will be broad. Taxing authorities including Pinellas County, cities, fire districts, EMS (emergency medical services), the Juvenile Welfare Board and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (which operates the bus system), will see a significant reduction in their operating budgets if Amendment 1 is passed. The overall impact to funding for the services provided by these organizations is approximately $42.5 million per year. That's $42 million in services — from public safety, to public transportation, public health, libraries, parks and other services — that likely will be reduced if voters approve Amendment 1.
The proposal to add another homestead exemption came from state lawmakers in Tallahassee, but the impact of this tax change will be felt mainly by our local communities, not the state government. Amendment 1 will reduce local governments' ability to provide important services to our community. It is unnecessary and unfair to the majority of our residents, businesses and property owners. I urge you to vote no on Amendment 1.
Kenneth Welch is the chairman of the Pinellas County Commission.