Increasing Homestead Exemption?

A group called Families for Lower Property Taxes is collecting signatures statewide to get a referendum on the upcoming fall ballot. The referendum is looking to increase the homestead exemption from the current $25,000 to $50,000.

According to the Divisions of Elections, about $150,000 more signatures are needed in order to get this on the ballot. The county says this homestead exemption increase sounds like a great idea.

At face value it promises to save taxpayers’ money, but the county says in reality it won't.

Bert Hartsfield, a Leon County property appraiser, says, "It would double the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000, applied to everyone's primary home with homestead. However, if you look at the details you'll see it's just shifting the tax burden to someone else."

The Leon County chair agrees.

"Leon County will take an 11.3 million dollar hit if the additional $25,000 homestead exemption goes through. That will really effect the services that our citizens receive. It will either be a cut in services or an increase in taxes," says Jane Sauls.

Families for Lower Property Taxes says this is pretty typical. Counties are screaming “the sky is falling”. Property values are increasing all over the state. It will be a $2 billion tax cut statewide. If counties don't raise the millage rates, everyone will benefit, but the county appraiser says if the homestead exemption is doubled the $11 million shortfall will have to come from somewhere.

Bert Hartsfield adds, "You have commercial properties and any other non-homestead properties would have to pick up the slack at the additional revenue shortfalls."

The Leon County Commission will discuss the referendum at Tuesday night’s meeting. The agenda items calls for opposing the homestead increase and supporting a public education campaign, so voters understand what this could mean for them.