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2016 General Election: Amendment 5

This amendment is kind of wonky. The point is basically to fix an amendment that voters passed in 2012 that gives low-income senior citizens a break on property taxes.

What’s on your ballot:

NO. 5 CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ARTICLE VII, SECTION 6 ARTICLE XII
Homestead Tax Exemption for Certain Senior, Low-Income, Long-Term Residents; Determination of Just Value

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution to revise the homestead tax exemption that may be granted by counties or municipalities for property with just value less than $250,000 owned by certain senior, low-income, long-term residents to specify that just value is determined in the first tax year the owner applies and is eligible for the exemption. The amendment takes effect January 1, 2017, and applies retroactively to exemptions granted before January 1, 2017.

If you vote

Yes

You agree to give property tax breaks to low-income senior citizens. Whether or not they qualify for a tax break depends on the value of their house when they apply.

No

You agree to give property tax breaks to low-income senior citizens, but you think whether or not they qualify for a tax break depends on the rise and fall of the value of their house and can change as values change.

What that really means:

There’s already a law on the books that protects poor, elderly Floridians from being priced out of their homes — but there’s a loophole. This amendment closes that loophole.

In 2012, voters approved an amendment that would exempt senior citizens over 65, making less than $ 20,000 a year, from property taxes. Currently if a low-income senior citizen has lived in a home for 25 years or more that is worth less than $250,000 they don’t have to pay property taxes. Sounds great in theory, but in practice there have been some issues as property values change.

As the law stands now, a senior citizen no longer qualifies for the property tax break if the value of their property rises above $250,000. This screws over elderly people who didn’t expect to pay property taxes and now all of a sudden have to pay taxes because the value of their home went up. This amendment clarifies that the value is based on the price when a resident first applies for the tax break — and isn’t subject to change whether property values rise and fall.

Supporters say:

It’s a needed fix to keep the law functioning as it was intended when voters approved it in 2012. They also point to it as one more example of how unfair and piecemeal Florida’s tax laws are and how the whole system needs an overhaul if we’re really going to reach an equitable system.

Opponents say:

It decreases property tax revenues, and makes it more expensive for everyone else to fund things like schools and police.