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Amendment One offers tax relief for flood improvements

Flooding in the Spring Oaks neighborhood in Altamonte Springs. (photo: Amy Green/WMFE)
Flooding in the Spring Oaks neighborhood in Altamonte Springs. (photo: Amy Green/WMFE)

An amendment on this year’s ballot could save certain taxpayers some money. That’s Amendment One on the November 8 ballot. It basically says that if you own property in the state, and you make improvements to that property to make it more resistant to flood damage, local governments cannot reassess and raise your property taxes because of those improvements.

“We know generally, that when you make any improvements on your house (it) increases the value, therefore increases your taxes” said Charlyle Parrish, chair of the Voter Services Committee for the League of Women Voters Pensacola Bay Area.

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Parrish says the League does not have an official position on the amendment.

“While the League has a long-standing position that no tax sources and so forth should be in the constitution, the League recognizes that the proposal has merit because it might encourage people to use alternative and sustainable methods to improve their house,” said Parrish.

The measure that put the amendment on the ballot came from the Florida legislature, where it passed overwhelmingly, 118 – 0 in the house with two members not voting, and 40-0 in the state senate.

This amendment would be in addition to laws currently on the books that say if your home is destroyed or heavily damaged in a named storm, your assessment would not be affected even though the repairs would be up to current standards and codes.

“This is not something new to the constitution,” said Bubba Peters, chief deputy for the Escambia County Appraiser’s Office.

He says under the new amendment the county would no longer be able to raise the taxes of homeowners who are trying to be proactive against future storms.

“Allowing homeowners to raise their homes up on pylons, build bulkheads, retaining walls, retention areas. We would not be able to assess, for the purpose of ad valorem taxes and in essence increase their tax burden.”

The amount of the tax savings would of course depend on the size and value of the property and the extent of the improvement projects. The assessment would remain the same up until the property is sold. Then, all bets are off.

“The owner of the home would be the one reaping the benefit, with their assessed value being held static,” said Peters. “At the point of sale, all the values would then adjust back to what the market value of the property would be.”

There are three amendments on the ballot this fall, as well as a full slate of state, local and national races. Early voting has begun in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties. Early voting in Walton County starts on October 29.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.