Jay Gardner Outlines Property Tax Amendment to Packed Town Meeting

Flagler County Property Appraiser says measure offers tax relief but not tax reform.

January 15, 2008 – Palm Coast, FL – Flagler County Property Appraiser, Jay Gardner, spoke to an overflow crowd at the community center last night. The main topic was the upcoming vote on a constitutional amendment to change property tax exemptions. But first, Gardner described the role of the property appraiser’s office, making it clear that their mission is to set fair values and submit the tax roll. They do not set taxes.


The Property Appraiser’s website provides a quick overview of the four salient points of the amendment. It says:


On January 29th, you will have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment regarding tax exemptions. Although many things were considered, the following four are to be on the ballot.

  • An additional $25,000 homestead exemption on values greater than $50,000 and up to $75,000. This exemption does not apply to school district levies. Expected reduction in taxes ranging from $119.62 to $269.04 (depending on your tax district).
  • $25,000 exemption for businesses (Tangible Personal Property). Maximum reduction for a business with the full $25,000 of personal property ranges from $310.07 to $459.49 (depending on your tax district). Affects all taxing authorities.
  • A 10% assessment cap on non-homestead properties. This limitation does not apply to school district levies.
  • Save Our Homes portability, up to $500,000 of value for a home of the same or greater value and a percentage being applied on a home of lesser value. Affects all taxing authorities.

The Save Our Homes amendment, passed in the early 90’s, was intended to protect retirees with fixed incomes from being forced out of their homes by rising property taxes caused by unusual jumps in property value. It assures that the “assessed value” of homesteaded properties cannot rise more that 3% per year, regardless of the magnitude of increases in “just value.” True to the “law of unintended consequences,” problems arose.


When taxable values rose quickly in the past five years, inequities between homesteaded and non-homesteaded properties were magnified. Property taxes on a homesteaded property are sometimes only a fraction of those on an identical non-homesteaded property.


The huge increases in total taxable value (38% in 2006 alone) created by both new construction and rising home values masked huge budget increases by local government because the millage rate remained fairly constant. With total taxable value possibly dropping in the next tax roll, millage rates are likely to rise. Save Our Homes protects against large assessment increases but does nothing to prevent millage rates (and taxes) from rising.


Homesteaders have expanded their expectations beyond the original intent of Save Our Homes to include the desire to carry their assessment savings from one home to another.


Since the beneficiaries of Save Our Homes outnumber those who are hurt by it, the required 60 percent vote to reform it will never be reached.


Gardner stressed that the amendment is not a tax reform measure, but one which provides tax relief. The inequities continue. The individual homesteader will see a net reduction in taxes of only a few hundred dollars, he said. The portability feature may spur some real estate sales which would be a good thing, he pointed out. He did not recommend that people vote either for or against the issue. His goal was to inform, not direct.


Gardner went on to discuss his proposal that the school portion of the property tax be off-loaded to a sales tax, providing property tax relief for all. He claims that our taxes are not too high. They are just unbalanced, relying too much on property taxes for revenue. For further information on this proposal, read the December article on the subject.  

The audience gave Gardner a healthy applause, something most property appraisers never hear.

3 replies
  1. Hank Gordon
    Hank Gordon says:

    Sales Tax to Replace Property Tax?

    Toby, clear something up for me. Mr. Gardner advocates replacing property tax, in part, with a sales tax as a revenue source. Seems to me this would result in a disproportionately greater amount of disposal income spent on sales taxes by lower-income folks than their higher income counterparts. Taxed items currently tax-exempt(e.g. food) would put a greater strain on lower-income families. Appears we’d still have an imbalance. What am I missing?

  2. Jay Gardner
    Jay Gardner says:

    Sales Tax

    Sales tax and/or removing certain sales tax exemptions that do not serve the public good could be used to pay for schools and would lower the millage rate by an average of 50% in Flagler County. Exemptions for food, medicine and the like should be retained due to the regressive nature of sales tax. I believe that this would put our economy back on track. This re-distribution of taxes would get rid of the negative tax reputation for our state and would not lead to any service cuts. The less affluent would benefit from lower real estate tax or lower rental rates and more importantly would have their jobs back. Overall I think all Floridians and all property owners would see a benefit.

    James E. Gardner, Jr.
    Flagler County Property Appraiser

  3. Toby
    Toby says:

    Reply to Hank

    Mr. Gardner did suggest continuing the food exemption. He targeted some of the stupid exemptions such as ostrich feed. He is also for an overall increase in the sales tax rate. You are correct in noting that sales tax is regressive, burdening the poor more than the wealthy. The overall tax burden per capita in Florida is low compared to other states. Because we don’t have a state income tax, the revenue has to come from other sources. Unfortunately our present system relies too heavily on the property tax and a system filled with inequities that become more glaring as property values rise.

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