Amendment 1 Splits Sarasota

Jim Ley and Nora Patterson
SARASOTA -

The debates, sound bites and campaign ads spinning around Florida's Amendment 1 make it sound simple. Yet, the four proposed property tax changes are complicated. WUSF zeroes in on the pros and cons of Amendment 1 with a look at Sarasota County where residents have willingly taxed themselves when convinced of the merits.

Just last November, 66 percent of Sarasota voters agreed to extend the local penny sales tax.

Yet, there's a split among locally elected officials over passage of Amendment 1 and even over the four different elements.

Sarasota County Property Appraiser Jim Todora likes the portability portion that would allow people to transfer their accrued tax savings from the 'Save Our Homes' annual tax cap to another property. He supports Amendment 1 as an economic stimulate.

Real estate transactions in Todora's office have dropped-off by almost two-thirds from their height in 2005.

Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson agrees, if passed, the portability portion may stimulate some real estate sales. Yet, she opposes the amendment saying it's a short-term fix for an inequitable tax system that requires long-term solutions.

Sarasota County Administrator Jim Ley believes the portability measure may be the undoing of the entire Save Our Homes program opening it up to a Constitutional challenge.

State Representative Kevin Ambler of Tampa says the legislature considered several formulas to make Save Our Homes fairer. But, lawmakers have to work with the system.

A second provision of Amendment 1 exempts the first $25,000 worth of tangible personal property from taxes. Property Appraiser Todora favors that one too.

Commissioner Patterson also likes the tangible tax exemption, yet not enough to back the entire amendment.

In fact, Patterson has major objections to the third provision which is often referred to as the 'doubling' of the $25,000 Homestead Exemption. Patterson says it's not really doubled because school taxes are exempt from the doubled exemption.

The fourth proposed change Commissioner Patterson likes because it gives non-homesteaded property owners a 10 percent annual tax cap. Yet, she believes it is equally disingenuous because it too does not apply to school taxes.

If Amendment 1 passes, Sarasota County would lose an estimated $14 million and that means a reduction in services. But, Property Appraiser Jim Todora says local taxing districts can vote to raise their millage rate to make up for any budget shortfalls Amendment 1 would impose.

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