House committee advances bill requiring two-thirds vote for property tax hikes

by | Feb 7, 2024

The House State Affairs Committee approved House Bill 1195 on Wednesday, requiring local governments in Florida to obtain at least a two-thirds majority vote for any property tax rate increases, a change from the current simple majority requirement

The House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday advanced House Bill 1195, which would introduce a new requirement for local governments to increase property tax rates.

Carried by Rep. Sam Garrison, the legislation would mandate that any increase in millage rates must be approved by at least a two-thirds majority of the local governing body. altering current law, which allows millage rates to be set or increased by a simple majority vote.

“The bill provides that a two-thirds vote of the governing body of a county, municipality, or independent special district is required to pass any millage rate increase” reads a post-committee Legislative analysis.

The bill further clarifies the conditions under which higher millage rates may be adopted, authorizing a two-thirds vote for rates not exceeding 110 percent of the maximum, with higher increases requiring unanimous or near-unanimous consent or a referendum.

Under current Florida law, local governments — including counties, municipalities, and special districts — have the authority to levy ad valorem taxes based on property values. These taxes are determined annually through millage rates, which are set by the local governing bodies. Typically, the adoption of the millage rate can be accomplished with a simple majority vote of the governing body. The law provides a formula for calculating a “rolled-back rate,” which aims to produce the same revenue as the previous year, adjusted for new construction and other factors. Increases over this rate are considered tax increases and require additional steps for approval. Local governments can override the maximum millage rate determined by the rolled-back rate with a supermajority vote or through a referendum, depending on the extent of the increase.

Under Garrison’s bill, for any increase in millage rates, a two-thirds majority vote from the local governing body is required, except in cases where current laws require a higher threshold. If adopted, changes would be applied uniformly across counties, municipalities, and independent special districts.

Representing the Florida Association of Counties, Bob McKee, spoke in opposition to the measure, raising concerns regarding the potential effects of the bill on local governance, and referring to existing safeguards against unwarranted tax increases.

“Our concerns are that there’s already a system in place that requires a two-thirds vote. It all is measured off the rollback rate,” he said. “The rollback rate calculation has always been the determination of what a tax increase is.”

Lawmakers speaking against the bill also expressed opposition due to a potential impact on local autonomy, arguing that it could interfere with the ability of municipalities and counties to manage their finances effectively. The requirement for a two-thirds majority, they argued, could make it more difficult for local bodies to achieve consensus on budgetary matters, potentially leading to underfunded services or delayed responses to community needs.

“My concern lies in that we continuously seem to be doing some sort of pre-emptive measures when it comes to local government, especially when they already have systems in place that tend to be working or their areas,” said Rep. Felicia Robinson. “I just don’t think that we can do this one rule for all across the state of Florida especially when we have so many different counties. And they are different in how they’re all set up.”


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