City officially opposes Amendment 4

Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 9:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 9:33 p.m.

Gainesville city commissioners have officially come out in opposition to a state referendum that would restrict local governments’ ability to raise revenues via property tax.

The City Commission approved a resolution in opposition to Amendment 4 in a 6-1 vote, with Commissioner Todd Chase in dissent.

If approved by voters, Amendment 4 would continue a trend of state limitations on taxable property values and, by connection, the ability of local governments to bring in property tax revenues.

The measure would reduce the allowable annual increase of the taxable value of non-homestead properties, such as businesses and second homes, from 10 percent to 5 percent. It would increase the exemption for first-time home buyers.

The measure would also prohibit taxable values from rising in years in which market values decline — doing away with a state rule known as a the “recapture” clause because it allows local governments to recapture revenues lost to exemptions in past years.

Thursday evening, Commissioner Randy Wells, noting that he owns multiple non-homesteaded properties, said that the Florida Legislature’s decision to put the measure on the ballot now could lead to budget woes for Gainesville because it would “lock the city in” at a time when property values are down.

Commissioner Susan Bottcher took time to criticize the Gainesville/Alachua County Association of Realtors for supporting the proposed amendment. She said she saw that as a case of “cutting off your nose to spite your face” because the amendment could make it more difficult to fund services in the community that the members of that organization are trying to sell to prospective home buyers.

Jeff McAdams, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, sent an email saying the union supported the City Commission’s stance.

“It is abundantly clear that if Amendment 4 passes, it would result in this Commission having to reduce police services to our community due to the loss of revenue,” he wrote.

Chase took umbrage with that, saying that the suggestion that public safety would be put in jeopardy was one of the “silly little scare tactics” of politics that “disgusts me.”

Mayor Craig Lowe and Commissioner Thomas Hawkins differed with Chase. Lowe noted that other local governments around the state had laid off law enforcement officers after property tax revenue limitations were put in place.

Hawkins said it was a realistic possibility locally.

“It’s not a stretch,” he said. “It’s not outrageous.”

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