House passes $11 billion property tax relief plan

This week The House passed an $11 billion property tax relief plan that will “preserve Save Our Homes, ensure portability of accumulated Save Our Homes benefits, it will cap year-to-year increases on non-homestead and commercial properties, and provide all homestead property owners a Guaranteed Save Our Homes benefit.” Full release as from Florida House District 6, Representative Jimmy Patronis:


TALLAHASSEE – A bi-partisan coalition of Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the Florida House overwhelmingly supported an improved property tax reform plan today expected to provide over $11 billion dollars in property tax relief during the next four years. The measure (CS/SJR 2D) passed by a 108 to 2 vote.

The plan preserves Save Our Homes, ensures portability of accumulated Save Our Homes benefits, caps year-to-year increases on non-homestead and commercial properties, and provides all homestead property owners a Guaranteed Save Our Homes benefit. If approved by the Senate, the measure will once again give Floridians the opportunity to vote for meaningful property tax reform on January 29, 2008.

“The plan we passed today accomplishes is a strong step forward for property tax relief,” said Chairman Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park), the lead property tax negotiator in the Florida House. “It provides meaningful relief to Floridians suffering under the weight of oppressive taxes, it reforms a broken property tax system that is riddled with inequities, and it creates new protections for all property owners from unchecked property tax hikes in the future.”

“The revised approach passed today addresses the concerns we heard last week from Senators and Representatives of both parties,” said Majority Leader Adam Hasner (R-Delray Beach). “It’s a bi-partisan approach that is a significant improvement over the original plan – it delivers the same amount of relief but in a more efficient manner.”

The measure passed today:

  • 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 deadline for getting the proposal on January 29th primary ballot is Tuesday, 10/30/2007 with the Senate to meet on the topic on Monday.

Bay County Tax Watch and comments

The current tax issues are a hot topic, and rightfully so. I’ve had numerous comments and emails regarding the tax increases over the last couple of years and I decided to dedicate a post to all those who have sent in emails regarding this issue.

We are an out of state owner of a condo on the beach.The VALUE of our property has doubled! Great but there is no way if we tried to sell it would go for that.  It has doubled the taxes.  Our tax should be based  on what we PAID for the condo NOT what the tax office thinks it is worth. If it sells for the assessed amount the new buyer should pay that amount.  If they think it is worth so much than come on and buy it!



The “Mass” appraisal system does not work well when market conditions are so volatile. It works best in a market where changes are slower and gradual. Historically, the county offices have not needed to utilize the tools and data sources that could be very helpful in determining market/assessed values for ad-valorem tax purposes during these volatile times. Eliminating transactions that are not indicative of the current market [i.e., recorded deeds from sales contracts that took place 2+- yrs ago], applying financial feasibility to certain types of commercial transactions, and identifying and applying adjustments for market trends are a few tools / methods which could be helpful. Perhaps some changes will be made to the “Mass Appraisal System” that will incorporate the tools and data needed in times like this. The BCPA’s office has a tremendous task to complete, given the number of parcels, market conditions, and system limitations. Sure, it isn’t perfect, and that’s why the VAB is in place. Remember that government wheels move slowly but hopefully we will see some positive changes come from this situation.      

Donald J Giles, MAI, SRA
Giles Appraisal Group, Inc.

Last year I was told by the tax commissioner they valued all beach front property at $25,000 per front foot plus all construction at $200.00 per SF.  They did not consider location, lot depth, sewer availability, relativity to costal control line, zoning, height restrictions, or if the property could be rebuilt if it were destroyed.  Cost of construction had no bearing because they valued all construction at $200.00/sf.   Recent market sales were immaterial and they were not required to use them in their valuations. 

I was also told that appeals were useless because the Appeals Board never over ruled their numbers. 

This is our government at work.  I think the work and “eye candy” the politicians throw out regarding lowering the milliage rate assumes everyone is an idiot.  We all know the milliage rate has almost nothing to do with the tax bill compared to the erroneous valuations placed by the Tax Commissioner.   I think we would all be hard pressed to find one person in Bay County that is convinced property values have increased in  the past year.  However, our Tax Commissioner thinks he can make the population believe property values have increased.   I think it is time to get a Tax Commissioner with some common sense. 

Hugh Scott

When I spoke with the Appraiser’s office, it was my understanding that the annual property tax is based on similar local property for only one year, the past year and that the way it is computed is set by the state legislature.  So, one factor that would help mitigate the impact of a real estate bubble on property taxes would be to use multiple years such as the past 3 or 5 or 10 instead of just one year. 

        I think several factors will be required to manage the property tax rates to something reasonable such as:

  1. use 3 to 10 years of past date instead of just one year;
  2. adjust the mileage rate;
  3. put a cap on the percentage increase allowed from one year to the next;
  4. other ?


Many months ago, Lee Sullivan and the Bay County Tax Watch, posted a chart in the News Herald outlining the “Actual Tax Levied” vs “Fair Tax” for calendar years 2001 thru 2006.  I don’t know how many people actually paid attention to that chart –  but, it was , perhaps, the most telling piece of paper I’d seen in a very long time.  

Simply put – as our assessments kept growing – our elected officials did NOTHING to curb their spending habits.  It’s PRETTY MUCH that simple. 

Our millage rates remained constant from 2001 thru 2005 EVEN THOUGH OUR TAXES ROSE FROM $37.4M TO $70.0M during that same time … that’s a $36M tax increase!!!  Almost 100%!!!  Nothing changed until 2006, when their constituents (us pee-ons) became extremely vocal … when Bay Tax Watch was formed; and, when projected new taxes were discussed for 2006 – AGAIN to be raised!!  It was only then that our county commissioners were nice enough to lower our millage rate by, what, 1 point?  Are you kidding me?  So, our millage rate was lowered … so what!  Our taxes STILL rose another $3M that year as well!!  And, we sat idly by!

No, my friends, the problem is NOT with the assessment process … Even if our assessments went up 400% … it was the local government’s RESPONSIBILITY to see that our millage rate was adjusted to allow for ONLY the collection of funds that were necessary to run our government … not, as they did, to continue the same millages and set-up new reserves, build thing we don’t need, and fatten government  … Sure, as a politician, it’s nice to be able to tell folks in your district you were able to add sidewalks to their neighborhood, or bike trails, or cart paths.  And, sure, it’ nice to be able to build a park in a place where none never existed before … and, I’m certain the betterment of our community was on each of our politician’s minds.  However, it’s time to STOP!  Time to give back!  Local government has got to be reined in!  Be vocal … stay in touch with our elected leaders … be involved!

Evan Brusilow, Principal Broker
WealthCreation NWFlorida, LLC

Click to enlarge

Bay Tax Foundation – Trim Buring Event

Many of the Trim notices that went out last month from the Bay County Property Appraiser’s Office were received with much contention. With some experiencing tax increases of 400% or more, many are on the lookout to try and get this portion of home-owner’s cost reduced. In addition to the Bay County Commission attempting to get the assessment process overhauled and rejecting the latest Tax Roll, Bay Tax Foundation (or Bay Taxpayers, Inc.) has been successful in influencing a roll back in millage rates and is currently campaigning to cap taxes and spending by the local county municipalities.

Bay Taxpayers, Inc. Mission Statement:

“Bay Taxpayers was formed in the Fall of 2006 as an advocate for the property owners of Bay County, FL. We were established to be an advocate for the taxpayers of our community to strive for equity in taxation and to demand accountability from local governmental authorities. Bay Tax Foundation was formed as a non-profit to provide research and educational services for local taxpayers and to serve as a clearing house for tax related research. We will work to assist local governments formulate sound fiscal policies and foster prudence in expenditures.

Bay Taxpayers will be a watchdog for property owners to prevent the onerous growth of governmental services and burdensome taxes. We will serve as a unified, organized voice of the taxpayers to seek relief from unconscionable tax increases and to advocate for reduced spending at all levels of government.”

To learn more, visit

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Bay County Property Tax

Last night State Senator Don Gaetz, along with other local officials and the Bay County Commission met at Gulf Coast Community College to discuss the recent rejection of the 2007 Tax Rolls from the Bay County Property Appraiser’s Office. The recent increase in property values over the last couple of years has sparked a sharp increase (500 – 600% in some cases) in assessed value. The milliage was reduced last year, but property assessments have increased so much so that the reduced milliage rates still did little to curb the increased tax bill. For some on a fixed income or with rental property, this affects their ability to own real estate because their operating costs sky rocket.

I just got off the phone with the property appraiser’s office, trying to understand how the valuation process works and how it could be improved. The way I understand it, the assessment is based on an average of “like” homes in the immediate area, not the individual home itself. So you end up averaging some homes of a slightly higher value with homes of a slightly lower value and you end up with skewed numbers.

At the meeting on Wednesday night, it was mentioned that the Florida Department of Revenue had agreed to review the current entire tax roll. Local tax payers gathered at the public meeting to voice their opinion on the recent increase and express their concern. Senator Gaetz, Representative Jimmy Patronis and Representative Marti Coley, R-Marianna questioned local spending and the offered the possibility of a milliage rate reduction.

I don’t know that I fully understand what could be done with the valuation process to make it better, does anyone have any insight on this?

Proponents to a consolidated City/County Government?

As written by one of our readers, Johnothan Jones:

The County Road 388 issues are a small example of the short sighted way the county government constantly approaches things. Commissioner Gainer typically is the worst of the county leadership when looking at things in a tasteful meaningful way to improve the county infrastructure. I have lived in here for 7 years and worked within the county government and seen the ill conceived short sighted approach to many problems and issues. Hwy 388 will be a main artery to the new airport and instead of embracing the things to come Commissioner Gainer and many others would rather pass the buck to someone else instead fulfilling the county’s responsibilities to it’s citizens. One issue that continually happens is the “ego” issues of the county and city politicians. When you have 8 municipalities and 5 are basically directly across the street from one another, how in the world can you get anything done in a efficient cost effective manner.

An example of this is by taking a look at 11th St, which is a main thoroughfare from Tyndall Parkway to St. Andrews. It crosses 3 different cities and none of which are willing to put the money up and work together to resurface, widen and make safer for the thousands of citizens that traverse that road on a daily basis. Hwy 390 is another perfect example of passing the buck and not thinking ahead until it’s too late. that road has needed to be 4-laned for at least 15 years, yet because of improper planning and the county/city governments not working together on a conceptive vision through planning and zoning of the county infrastructure it is still not 4-laned or even 6-laned (which was a state recommendation due to traffic counts in 2004) to bare the huge traffic numbers that strain it daily.

These are but a few examples of the main problems that will plague our community until we have the right leadership with vision and know how to get things done correctly. I and many others have felt a consolidated county/city government is the best remedy to push our county to the next level and get the results we need as a community. With a population of roughly 160,000 and growing daily the time is right to change the way we do things. With only 5 county commissioners controlling our future’s along with the fractured city governments in the middle, it’s time for a change in approach, mindset and vision for the changes coming to our area. In the 2002 elections there was a non-binding referendum on the ballot asking the citizens if they wanted a consolidated government and 68% vote “YES”. Most people don’t realize the positive effects this would make on our community as a whole. It would mean completely streamlining the tax codes for the county, consolidating fire and police services, which many people know in the smaller cities such as Cedar Grove and others is inadequate in most cases. The Planning and Zoning Departments would be consolidated so that everyone would be on the same page and not just throwing up whatever because the same guidelines would apply for everyone. It would mean constructive thought and consideration of our neighbors instead of the isolationism that often occurs. Currently the county has just 4 Code Enforcement officers for the whole county entrusted to clean up the numerous rundown properties, which include many dilapidated mobile home and housing areas that get overlooked because traversing the mountain to get things changed seems out of reach in most cases. With consolidation, Code Enforcement could actually make a difference with more resources and officers out on the streets making sure property owners are maintaining their properties in a respectful and acceptable manner.

Most opponents of the consolidation approach use the fear tactic that the little guy won’t have a voice with the county politicians like they do with their city leaders. This would be completely the opposite due to the fact the county commission would be expanded to probably a 9 seat board and many of the city and county department heads would be integrated into the revamped/streamlined agencies that oversee the road department, planning and zoning and code enforcement to name a few. The difference would be everyone working from the same rule book, on the same team and with common goals working for the betterment of the citizens as a whole.

Regardless of what some think, we are all in this together as a county and for the individualists that want to maintain their “Big Fish in a Little Pond” approach, it’s just not going to work in the long term. The impact of the new airport is going to significantly change our county regardless and sticking our heads in the sand and continually doing things as they’ve been done is just not going to work. The increase of population, expectations of the voters and just plain decency of doing something meaningful for the betterment of the county we live in demands a change in current mindset. Given the tight hold the county power brokers wield the best and most effective way to get the changes made is to facilitate a “Binding” referendum on the ballots forcing the county to make these changes.

Thank you for this outlet to voice concerns and discuss options for our area.

Best Regards,
Johnothan Jones

What do you think about this? Do you think this would work for our area? It sure sounds like it would simplify of local governments.

Bay County Commission Rejects 2007 Tax Rolls

It’s no secret the appraisal process for the Bay County Property Appraisers office is flawed. On the radio this morning I heard a caller into the Burnie Thompson Show on Talk Radio 101 that said that his assessed value from the Bay County Property Appraisers office was more than $200,000, yet his appraisal that just came back on a refi came in at less than $100,000. He couldn’t understand where the difference was coming from.

I, fortunately, do not have first hand experience with this, but have heard the stories like everyone else. The action of “rejecting” the tax rolls by the Bay County Commission is goaled at challenging the state to ultimately lower property taxes.

Lee Sullilvan was on the show this morning promoting is organization has the goal of “advocate for fairness in taxes and accountability in local government.” They’ve been around since 2006 and have over 5000 members.

2007 Tax Roll doesn't reflect falling prices

Commissioner George Gainer claims that the new tax rolls don’t reflect the price correction this market has experienced stating that valuations and assessments are still too high. He plans to challenge this in the September 4th commission meeting, although it is uncertain whether he has the authority. Bay County Property Appraiser, Wayne Spitzer encouraged this as he believes that the appraisals were high. The current millage rate was recently lowered from 4.1620 to 3.7915, but Gainer wants to take a closer look at the actual assessments.