Constitutional amendments on November ballot

OKEECHOBEE — There are 12 proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution on the Nov. 6 ballot.

12 Amendments will appear on the ballot. Read more about these amendments here.

Amendments 1 & 2 below

Amendments 3, 4, 5, & 6

Amendments 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 & 13

Amendment 1

Amendment number one, which was proposed by the Florida Legislature, deals with the Homestead Exemption.

The Homestead Exemption Act was initially introduced in 1933, after the Great Depression, and was intended to give some tax relief to property owners by allowing them to deduct $5,000 of their property’s value from their taxes. In the 1960s it was increased to $10,000 and in 1980, to $25,000.

In 2008, this was increased to $50,000. This means that if your home is worth $100,000, and you qualify for the Homestead Exemption, your home would be taxed as though it were only worth $50,000.

The new amendment proposes to raise the exemption by an additional $25,000 for those whose homes are valued at or above $125,000. If a home is valued between $100,00 and $125.000, they would receive a partial exemption. These reductions would not affect the amount paid in school taxes.

There are many things to consider before heading to the polls. Not everyone qualifies for Homestead Exemption. You must legally own the property, and it must be your permanent residence. You must file for the exemption by Jan. 1. Businesses do not qualify. Renters do not qualify. Your vacation home is not eligible.

Even if you do qualify for Homestead Exemption, you only qualify for the additional exemption if your home value is above $100,000. You can find this out by looking in the center column of your tax bill. You can also go to any of the area Property Appraiser offices websites where they have posted links which allow property owners to find out how the amendment, if passed, with change your tax bills. Just put in an address, and the program will determine how the proposed amendment would affect the tax bill for that address. Links to the estimator can be found for Lake Okeechobee area counties at:

• Hendry County: http://hendryprop.com/
• Okeechobee County; okeechobeepa.com
• Palm Beach County: https://www.pbcgov.org/PAPA
• Glades County: http://qpublic.net/fl/glades/homestead3.html

Another consideration is the financial cost to the county if this amendment passes. If it passes, the tax base in the county will be cut significantly. This means counties will either cut services or raise the tax millage. (The millage rate is the amount per $1,000 of property value that is used to calculate local property taxes. Millage rates are multiplied by the total taxable value of the property to calculate the property taxes.)

The Florida Association of Counties believe it will cost Florida’s cities, counties and other taxing authorities an estimated $687.5 million annually, starting in 2019, and the League of Women’s Voters feel it will likely result in cuts to services or higher local rates to make up for the revenue losses, or possibly both.

The League of Women’s Voters website lists the following opponents to the amendment: League of Women Voters of Florida; Florida Policy Institute; Florida League of Cities; Progress Florida; Florida Education Association; Florida Association of Counties; Florida City and County Management Association.

The Florida League of Cities explains that they believe the amendment is unfair because the benefits are going to only a few homeowners rather than to everyone. They call it a tax shift rather than a tax break because “it will leave millions of hardworking homeowners with a bigger share of the property tax burden.”

Every election people are told to get out and vote, but there is more to it than just going to the polls. Take time to research the issues. These things will affect you for years to come. Vote, but vote wisely.

Amendment 2

Amendment two was also placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature. This amendment deals with a cap on property taxes that was put in place through an amendment in 2008.

The League of Women Voters explains it as “a 10 percent cap on annual property value increases for non-homestead property.” This gave them some of the same benefits as homeowners because property taxes are determined by property values. The 2008 amendment is scheduled to be repealed on Jan. 1, 2019, but the new amendment would make the cap permanent. School district taxes, which were already excluded from the cap, would continue to be excluded.

According to Jamesmadison.org, which put together a 2018 Florida Amendment Guide, there are many pros to voting yes on this amendment. If passed, annual property taxes would continue to be increased by no more than 10 percent. The guide states that studies have been done which conclude that if this amendment is not passed, there could be major tax increases which could affect renters, seniors, business owners, and part-time residents. The State Revenue Estimating Conference study estimates a $700 million tax increase if the amendment is not passed.

Jamesmadison.org does not believe there are any cons to voting for the amendment.

Contrarily, the League of Women Voters opposes the amendment. Its position is “no tax sources or revenue should be specified, limited, exempted, or prohibited in the Constitution.” The LWV lists supporters of the amendment as the Florida Association of Realtors, Florida TaxWatch and Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Voting yes on this would mean that you are voting to keep the 10 percent cap permanently.

Voting no means that you want to remove the cap.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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