Florida voters will decide fate of homestead exemption

Posted at 6:01 PM, May 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-03 18:01:00-04

Homeowners in Florida could soon see a huge property tax break, but that same tax cut could mean a loss in county services or higher taxes in other areas.

Lawmakers say this could be the biggest tax cut in Florida's history. Right now homeowners receive a tax exemption for the first $25,000 in value of their properties. Now they could see another $25,000.

"What that does is this allows the middle class and first time homeowners know what they can expect with their property taxes," Adam Davis, Governmental Affairs Director for the Sarasota and Manatee County Realtor's Association says.

It's an estimated $200 - $300 dollar annual savings for homeowners at a time when the price of homes in both Manatee and Sarasota counties are up 7.5-percent.

"If you're buying a piece of property on Longboat Key, Casey Key, Siesta Key or a waterfront property, it may not be a driving force," real estate Attorney Michael Bell says. "But if you are a certain segment of the population buying property for $150,000 to $200,000 dollars, that $250 adds up."

But where homeowners could save money, local government could lose it.

If the property-tax break is passed, it'll leave a $7 million hole in Sarasota County's annual budget. That could mean higher sales taxes or cutting services.

In Sarasota County, that $7 million funds a list of things including libraries, parks, the Sheriff's Office and SCAT system. Those services would be the first things the county would look to for cuts.

The issue is ultimately up to voters to decide. It will be on the ballot in November 2018.