Homestead exemption tax cut could be costly in services

- Florida voters will have lots of choices to make in 2018. Among them is whether to expand the Homestead Property Tax Exemption in Florida.

While some homeowners might be excited about the possibility of lower taxes, some county leaders are trying to figure out which programs would be affected by the potential millions in lost revenue.

The legislature has placed a referendum on the November 2018 ballot that would allow an additional tax exemption on home values between $100,000 and $125,000.

Under the referendum up, Hillsborough County homeowners would see an average savings of $127 a year.

It may sound great for homeowners but they will have to weigh those savings with a loss in county services.

The Florida Association of Counties says local governments would lose $587 million statewide. In the nine-county FOX 13 viewing area, that number is $124.4 million.

Pinellas governments would lose $33 million. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says many departments, including his, could be hit.

"There is not a lot of room in our budget," said Gualtieri. "It is a significant amount of money that is going to be lost in revenue."

All the governments in Hillsborough could lose $39 million in 2020. They're already looking at hundreds of millions to pay for upgrades to fire-rescue, stormwater, and parks, so budget cuts are not welcome.

The county administrator has ordered an immediate hiring freeze.

"We have dug deep and taken seriously the challenge to be more efficient and cut costs but eventually it does affect services, especially when it comes to the homestead exemption," said one county official during a budget discussion on Tuesday.

During their budget meeting Tuesday, Hillsborough County discussed potential revenue increases from gas taxes and user fees, which has some critics calling this a tax shift, as opposed to a tax cut.

The referendum would require 60 percent support from voters to be approved.

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