A proposed measure that would grant an increased homestead property tax exemption to school teachers, individuals that serve in the military, and first responders unanimously passed its second hearing in the Florida House on Monday evening, bringing the move one step closer to appearing on ballots in November.
If passed and enacted, the bill would exempt the value of a homestead property, defined in the Florida Constitution as ‘real property to the extent of no more than one half of an acre of contiguous land in a municipality, owned by a natural person, and the improvements on it,’ on tax rolls for the workers in the aforementioned professions that own homestead property between the value of $100,000 and $150,000.
Despite getting unanimous approval, skepticism ruminated throughout the committee.
“I’m going to be up on the bill today because I don’t want to look like I’m not supporting first responders and teachers, but I’m not sure this is where they should be getting it. They should be getting it in their salaries so they can afford to buy houses,” said Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil. “I’m also concerned that we don’t know how many people are renting of this group, and they won’t be affected at all. That was a big concern of mine. I wanted to know exactly how many people own property and actually be able to take advantage of this. But I am going to be up on it, and I applaud all of the people, the teachers, the first responders, that are mentioned in this bill.”
Currently, homeowners can qualify for a homestead tax exemption on the first $25,000 of the appraised value of a property. They also can qualify for a $25,000 homestead exemption on a value between $50,000 and $75,000. Any higher property value is taxable.
“Thank you for coming up with this bill. There is a very sensitive part of this bill where the property appraisers are raising concerns, however, due to the group that is listed, which is teachers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, we need to attract more in our state,” said Rep. Marie Paule Woodson. “We are losing teachers, we are losing police officers, child welfare officials, so I will be up on this bill. I believe it’s a great bill that would help those in that group mentioned.”
If voters approve the proposal, it’s estimated that non-school property tax revenues would take an $80.9 million hit in the next fiscal year, with the annual savings for homeowners reaching $93.6 million by the 2026-2027 fiscal year.
“This bill proposes a Constitutional change to the property tax system that allows the legislature to provide exemptions to a targeted list of individuals. We support all of these professions. However, we do not believe the correct way to recognize the valued service of these individuals is through the property tax system,” said Bob McKee of the Florida Association of Counties. “A fundamental principle of taxation is that the tax applies broadly to minimize the impact to any of those required to pay it. Creating new property tax exemptions does not lower taxes. The Supreme Court has said that any newly created exemption shifts that burden to all other taxed properties. So the burden is shifted even to some within those very professions that are targeted.”
The proposal awaits its approval by the House State Affairs Committee before being able to move towards a full House vote.