Gov Crist Here, Comments on Airport, No Education Cuts, and Offshore Oil Drilling

Dancing on the animated floor projection, Governor Charlie Crist made an appearance at the Panama City Beach’s Chamber of Commerce last Tuesday to attend a “round-table” meeting with 10 of the leaders of the Panama City Beach community.  Among many topics, the dynamics involved with education funding, offshore drilling, and the new Panama City-Bay County Airport were discussed.

A restricted schedule kept the questions to a minimum, but 5 were able to address the Governor including Anthony DuBose on the lending industry, Al McCambry on private vs public education funding, Dan Rowe on offshore drilling, Tom Morgan about the new airport, and Gary Walsingham regarding college funding.  The answers varied and actually resulted in around 50 minutes of video footage.

Starting off discussing the housing market, Governor Crist talked about the current 10% annual cap on property taxes for 2nd homes and businesses and the possiblity of that being cut in half, should the people of Florida vote on it on the November 2010 ballot.  The Florida legislature just passed this to be on the ballot.  In addition, there will also be a 25% reduction in property taxes to first-time homebuyers.

Governor Crist also commented on state-wide education in that when he first came into office, Education Weekly ranked Florida education 31st out of 50 in the United States.  Last year, the state of Florida was ranked 14th and this year Florida ranked 10, marking a clear improvement, Crist said.  The Governor humbly credited his predecessor Gov Jeb Bush for setting in play most of what led to the increase in quality education in Florida.

Regarding offshore drilling, Governor Crist voiced his opinion in support of drilling citing that if “it’s safe enough, far enough and clean enough,” then he thinks we should do it.  He discussed a new technology that was presented to him three weeks ago that placed a mushroom-shaped dome on the ocean floor that housed all the oil extraction equipment so that no surface equipment would be needed any longer.  He said that this could be the future of drilling and could lead to less environmental risk.  “I believe the founders of our country signed the Declaration of Independence, not the Declaration of Dependence,” said Crist, describing how we need to alleviate our dependence on foreign oil.

Governor Crist commented on the airport saying that the timing couldn’t be better to help push this part of Florida into prosperous economic times.  Enterprise Florida, a new initiative to grow industry in the State of Florida has the potential to spread its influence further into the Bay County area, and Crist said that is largely due to the economic opportunities the new airport will make possible.  There lies huge opportunity in the aerospace, bio-engineering, cargo, and more.  Crist, excited about the opportunity, “This is so much the right thing to do.”

Crist also cited that there was an increase in education funding to the tune of $2.1 billion which will lead to about $43 million in increased funding for community colleges and $100 million in increased funding for university-level colleges.

In attendance:

  • Beth Oltman, President/CEO of the Panama City Beach Chamber
  • Anthony DuBose, President of Coastal community Insurance and PCB Chamber
  • Mayor Gayle Oberst of Panama City Beach
  • Philip Griffitts Jr., Owner of Sugar Sands Inn and Suites
  • Paul Wohlford, VP Sales and Marketing of the Resort Collection of Panama City Beach
  • Marty McDaniel, President of Oaseas Resorts, Chairman of the Bay County TDC
  • Dan Rowe, President of the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Jessica Pfefferkorn, Commanding Officer, Naval Support Activity Panama City
  • Robert Carroll, Vice President, McNeil Carroll Engineering
  • Al McCambry, General Manager of Knology
  • Karen Blackerby, Vice President of Magnum Capital
  • Jack Bishop, Restaurant Owner
  • Steve Counts, President of Counts Real Estate Group
  • Gary Walsingham, CEO Walsingham Investment/Ripley’s Beleive It or Not
  • Elizabeth Walters, Attorney/Partner of Burke Blue Hutchison Walters & Smith
  • Edy Rivard, Gulf Coast Medical
  • Tom Morgan, St. Joe

No More Property Tax?

Not that it is really a debatable issue any longer (at least not now), on the ballot was a tax swap amendment goaled at reducing Florida property tax by up to 40% and substituting the lost revenue with consumption taxes such as an increases sales tax, eliminating sales tax exemptions, and possibly a state income tax.  In order to replace the revenue, the state would likely have to adopt up to a 3% sales tax increase and institute a state income tax, even though Florida, at this time, has no state income tax.

Continue reading “No More Property Tax?”

Bay County Value Adjustment Board cuts assessments

The Bay County VAB, or Value Adjustment Board, reviewed just under 600 properties and cut assessments on many. Some were cut by percentages, others by who dollar amounts, and some individually and others whole areas. Bid-A-Wee Beach, for example, received lower assessments on all 521 properties with 15% cut for properties closer to the water and the rest of the subdivision received 10% cuts.

Not every case heard received cuts, most assessment cuts were based on 2007 sales numbers, which more accurately reflected current market values.

Amendment 1 Q&A with Jimmy Patronis

Now that Amendment 1 was passed, what does it mean for us. Representative Jimmy Patronis sent out an email explaining some of the common questions that keep coming up. Representative Patronis, I appreciate you being proactive in addressing these questions.

Q: When will the changes from Amendment 1 show up on tax bills?

A: For those who are eligible, benefits from portability, the additional homestead exemption and the $25,000 exemption for tangible personal property will start showing up on 2008 tax bills.

Continue reading “Amendment 1 Q&A with Jimmy Patronis”

Property Tax-cutting Amendment 1 approved by state voters

On Tuesday, Florida Constitutional Amendment 1 was approved by Florida voters with 64% yes and 36% no.  Expected to cut taxes $9.3 billion total, Amendment 1 will double the current homestead tax exemption from $25,000 to $50,000, it will allow portability so that homeowners can transfer their Save Our Homes tax benefits, provide a 10% assessment cap on ALL properties (including rental homes, second homes, business properties, etc.), and it will include an exemption on the first $25,000 from taxes for tangible personal property for business owners.

Those opposing the Amendment claim that if passed, important public services such as fire protection and law enforcement would suffer.  In addition, the public school system would be under funded.

Vote Yes on Amendment 1 on January 29th

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On the January 29th ballot, we will have the opportunity to vote on Amendment 1, that “offers property tax relief for all Floridians.”  The main points are:

  • Double homestead exemption for almost everyone, from $25k to $50k
  • Allow portability so that homeowners can transfer their Save Our Homes tax benefits from their old home to a new home.
  • It will provide an assessment 10% cap on ALL properties (including rental homes, second homes, business properties, etc.)
  • Includes an exemption on the first $25k from taxes for tangible personal property for business owners.

You can get all the details at www.voteyeson1.com

You can view Representative Jimmy Patronis’ flyer on this here.

Florida Property Tax Relief Plan to go to the polls

Well, there’s good news and bad news.  Good news first.   We’ve got a property tax relief plan on the presidential primary ballot.  Bad news.  It is a much leaner version of the one we wanted.

The scoop.

The original plan (passed by the House):

  • Preserves Save Our Homes.
  • Allows “portability” of accumulated Save Our Homes (SOH) benefits.
    • Homeowners may transfer their SOH benefit to a new homestead anywhere in Florida within 2 years of leaving their former homestead
    • If “upsizing” to a home of equal or greater just value, the homestead owner can transfer 100% of the SOH benefit to the new homestead, up to a $1 million transferred benefit.
    • If “downsizing” to a home with a lower just value, the homestead owner can transfer a SOH benefit that that protects the same percentage of value as it did the former homestead, up to a $1 million benefit.
  • Provides a “Guaranteed Save Our Homes Benefit” for all homestead properties, so that all homestead owners can enjoy meaningful SOH savings without having to wait years to get them (does not apply to school tax levies).
    • All homeowners will own a SOH benefit that will accumulate on an annual basis and that can be carried with them from home to home (the “accumulated SOH benefit”).
    • If a homeowner has a small accumulated SOH benefit (like most recent homebuyers or new homestead buyers) they will receive a guaranteed exemption equal to 40% (or 100% for low-income seniors) of the county’s median just value for homesteads.
    • This is called the “Guaranteed SOH Benefit.” The Guaranteed SOH Benefit applies to home value above $50,000.
    • Along with using the county median home value approach, this will minimize the impact on small cities and counties. The homeowner will continue to build an accumulated SOH benefit. Once the accumulated SOH benefit is greater than the guaranteed benefit, the homeowner will receive the accumulated SOH benefit.
  • Provides a 5% assessment cap for all non-homestead and commercial properties in Florida to guarantee property tax predictability and protection for all property owners.
    • Non-commercial properties will be reassessed at change of ownership.
    • Non-homestead properties will be reassessed when the property undergoes a substantial modification or change of use.
  • Creates a new Tangible Personal Property Exemption of $25,000.
  • Provides for limitations on assessed values of properties used for affordable housing and working waterfronts (does not apply to school tax levies).
  • Instills accountability for all local property appraisers by requiring every appraiser to be elected.

The Senate passed their amended version of the property tax reform bill at the end of the day Monday, the day of the deadline to get it on the January ballot.  The official release as from Florida District 6 Representative Jimmy Patronis:

 Greetings,

As you know, providing meaningful property tax relief to Floridians has been one of my top priorities this year.

When the House started fighting for property tax relief over ten months ago, we realized this issue was one of the most important issues we would face.  We have worked hard to help make Florida affordable again for homeowners, families and small businesses.  We understand the need to provide tax relief and re-energize our economy in order to return Florida to its role as a national economic leader.

Last week the House passed a broad, bi-partisan consensus property tax relief plan 108-2.  The elements of the plan we passed were meaningful, balanced and returned some fairness and equity to Florida’s property tax system.

Sadly, the Senate rejected that plan, passed a plan with much less savings, and left us with no other option on the last day of the special session.  This plan was the most meaningful tax relief plan the Senate was willing to pass, and they made it clear to us it was their final offer, take it or leave it.

The reality of the legislative process requires agreement from both the House and the Senate.  The House has a long history of wanting to provide more meaningful tax relief. We have a record that demonstrates our continued commitment to providing greater relief.  The House is willing to do more if given the opportunity, but the Senate has not given us that option.

Sadly, if Floridians are to have a chance to vote for property tax relief in January, this plan is the only option.

Let me be clear, there are some positive elements for taxpayers in this package – things that Floridians have told us they wanted and the Governor campaigned on:

* Expanding the Homestead Exemption: Every homeowner will see a larger Homestead Exemption on their non-school taxes.  This will result in savings for every homestead property owner in the state.

* Full Portability: A universally agreed upon aspect of the plan.  Almost every Florida homeowner will now be able to carry their full current Save Our Homes savings with them to a new home.  Floridians will no longer be trapped in their homes and will be able to afford to move again.  This is a major step forward for Floridians.

* Cap on Assessments for Non-Homesteaded Properties: Just a week ago, the Senate was saying “NO” to any cap on non-homesteaded and business properties.  Florida property owners who have seen their property assessments double and triple in a single year will now benefit from a cap on at least some of their property assessments for non-education taxes.

The bottom line, however, is the Senate plan passed today does not go nearly far enough.  The people of Florida deserve more relief and we believe our partners in this process have missed a major opportunity to provide truly meaningful relief to all Floridians and to reinvigorate our state’s economy.

But this is not the end of the debate to reduce property taxes.

Our dedication to fighting for property tax relief continues.  We will not lose sight of the fact that these tax cuts are a small step toward getting Florida’s economy back on track.  It’s the people’s money, and we will keep fighting to let them keep more of it.

I encourage you to stay engaged on this issue and to continue communicating with your elected officials on the issues important to you.