Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Proposed Law Riles Coalition

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Proposed Law Riles Coalition

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTINA ABEL

PONTE VEDRA BEACH - Several members of a homeowners organization lashed out this week at the prospect of a proposed state law that promises lower property taxes but reduced local control of government.

St. Johns County Commissioner Ron Sanchez told members of the Ponte Vedra Beaches Coalition Monday that an amendment to lower property taxes, which will be on the ballot on Tuesday, Jan. 29, would reduce local control.

The issue is especially sensitive to the coalition, an organization of about 20 homeowners associations. Some of the coalition members spent two years writing a draft of a charter form of government that would specifically give more control to local citizens and reduce the power of Tallahassee.

The Jan. 29 property tax constitutional amendment says it will "require the Legislature to limit authority of counties, municipalities, and special districts to increase ad valorem taxes."

The Florida Association of Counties says the amendment, which needs 60 percent of votes cast for approval, would give homeowners the option of increasing their homestead exemption up to $195,000, but they would give up a 3 percent cap on annual assessed value. The state now offers homeowners a $25,000 homestead exemption and the Save Our Homes 3 percent cap, which voters enacted in 1992. If the amendment is passed, new homeowners and those who move within the state would have only the "super" homestead exemption as an option, without the Save Our Homes cap.

Clara Cowan, president of the Beaches Coalition, said the amendment would take away the right for local governments and citizens to choose what's best for them.

"As the organization ... that formed the charter committee, this organization has an interest in us retaining power close to home," Cowan said. "This flies in the face of everything we spent two years trying to do. …

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