Be Honest About Amendments

Argus

BY CHRISTINE ROBINSON SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY MAR 17, 2018

Amendments 1 and 2 are a hot topic amongst local governments. We have heard many governments loudly complain about these amendments. These governments have used the word “cut” frequently to describe what is going to happen if these amendments pass.

The Argus Foundation has not taken a position as to whether to support these amendments, but we do want the public discourse and the conversation to be honest and forthcoming to the electorate.

First, we will address Amendment 2. This amendment is not new to anyone. Elected officials in local legislative bodies have been living and budgeting under this amendment since each of them took office. This amendment keeps the non-homestead cap that is in place right now. Passed in 2008, it caps how much local governments can increase certain property taxes every year and dramatically limits taxes on affordable housing and small businesses. Without this amendment, taxes could increase in unlimited amounts for rental units and small businesses. 

Next is a new amendment. Amendment 1 provides for a $25,000 homestead exemption on home values between $100,000 and $125,000. That portion of the home’s value would be exempted. This is a homestead exemption so rentals, commercial and second homes are excluded. This shrinks the properties this affects significantly. 

We asked the property appraiser to apply this exemption to this tax year so we could see how each government would be affected. What it revealed is that not one of the local governments would see a cut in revenue from one year to the next. They will actually continue to see increases in their revenues while we are in the economy we are enjoying today.

So why do we keep hearing the word “cut”? 

This is government language not based in real world experiences. In the real world, if you were hoping for a 5-percent raise and get a 3-percent raise instead, that is not a cut to your income. It is still a raise; you will get more than you did last year.

In government speak, that is a cut because you did not get everything you wanted. 

It is important that folks have real information about this issue and that government uses the same language of the people it represents when talking about these amendments.

The Argus Foundation wrote an email to each local government using the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s numbers. These numbers applied the amendment calculations to this year so they could each see the reality of the numbers for their government.

The City of Venice took that information and decided to explore this issue. They invited Property Appraiser Bill Furst to explain the numbers this week. It was an honest and truthful discussion unfiltered by staff and the League of Cities. We commend the City of Venice for their approach and public discussion for the benefit of their taxpayers. The numbers are what they are. The City of Venice did not spin them or attempt to.

We congratulate the City of Venice and hope to see the other local governments follow this best practice and go into budget planning with their eyes wide open on this issue. On behalf of the Argus Foundation, we are proud to have assisted on this issue, which affects the economic well being of Sarasota County and its cities.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation.

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