Central Florida leaders fear big loss if voters pass extra homestead exemption – Florida News

Central Florida leaders fear big loss if voters pass extra homestead exemption – Florida News

Thanks to state lawmakers, Florida voters will have the chance to give themselves a property-tax break worth about $275 for the average homeowner next year.

But Central Florida government officials warn that if the ballot measure passes in November 2018, it will lead to a drastic loss in property-tax revenues — potentially more than $59 million across the region in 2020. The losses could force cuts to services such as public safety, parks, libraries and community health centers, critics say.

“That’s a gift to you from the people in Tallahassee, but it comes out of your local dollars,” Seminole County Commissioner Brenda Carey said at a recent meeting. “We’re the ones that provide you with your services, and we pay for it through your ad valorem [property] tax. … There are going to be consequences.”

Many local governments would have the leeway to increase taxes to make up the shortfall. But elected officials often are loathe to jack up tax rates to bring in more dollars.

“This is putting counties in a really tough choice: Whether to cut services or raise taxes,” said Cragin Mosteller, spokeswoman for Florida Association of Counties. “The savings for homeowners, that’s a fairly small amount. But it’s going to affect our quality of life.”

Estimates show if the new exemption passes in the November 2018 referendum, Seminole stands to lose $11.2 million in tax revenue, including nearly $3 million for the fire department and more than $4.5 million for the Sheriff’s Office.

Elsewhere, Orange County would face a nearly $23 million cut in revenue, including $4.5…

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