County says 'portability' of tax-cut amendment wouldn't cost it funds


Published: Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 12:36 a.m.

The Save Our Homes portability plank of the Jan. 29 statewide tax-cut initiative should not cost Alachua County government any revenue, officials said.

County Management and Budget Director Suzanne Gable said as long as the county has continued growth in the overall value of property and in the income of residents, it should offset any losses that could come from the measure.

Still, Gable said that trying to figure out the impact has been a taxing exercise for local officials.

"We have tried to look at everything. The state is projecting it will have an impact because they are looking at it statewide, but they can't help us," Gable said. "The calculation is complicated."

Save Our Homes is a state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1992 to cap growth on the value of homesteaded property at 3 percent a year. It was designed to keep a lid on property tax increases attributable to escalating home values.

When the home is sold, it rises to its full value. The new owner ends up paying much more in taxes than the previous owner.

The measure has been a boon to longtime homeowners because their taxes have not grown as much as they would have without it.

But in some cases it has trapped people in their homes because it would be too costly to afford new homes - even smaller ones - that are taxed at full value.

The amendment will allow homeowners to apply up to $500,000 in Save Our Homes savings to a new home.

Supporters believe that will enable more people to buy new homes, which would help the depressed housing market.

Florida's Legislature last year passed a tax measure that now limits the amount of revenue counties and cities can collect from property tax. That limit is tied to the income growth of residents. However, counties can collect full tax revenue on increased property values from new growth.

Gable said portability will not cost the county any revenue as long as growth in income and new construction remain above certain levels.

"As long as our base property values do not get eroded by portability more than the state allows us to have in growth, we'll probably have no impact from portability," Gable said.

Two other components of the Jan. 29 referendum - the homestead exemption increase and the creation of a tangible property exemption for businesses - are expected to cost the county about $11 million in revenue.

Cindy Swirko can be reached at 352-374-5024 or swirkoc@ gvillesun.com.

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