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Home arrow Real Estate News arrow General News arrow Small Tax cuts were promised to residents by Fort Lauderdale
Small Tax cuts were promised to residents by Fort Lauderdale Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 September 2006
FORT LAUDERDALE •  Property owners crowed into City Hall where they condemned the proposed increase in property tax collections.  This was because of the rising tax bills.
Commissioners promised the budget will have been rewritten, and the tax increase won't be as high as the proposed 13 percent.

They weren't sure how much should be cut from the proposed $308.9 million operating budget that pays for city services, but suggested up to $4 million in reductions.

Vice Mayor Christine Teel said it would be difficult to make the right cuts without gouging too deeply. But she and the others on the dais agreed City Manager George Gretsas should take another stab at it.

The eventual budget would still include an increase in property tax collections and in overall spending.

Gretsas told the crowd he understood their plight, but that he can't control the price of gas, the weather, the real estate market, insurance prices, or the tax structure in Florida that favors permanent owners and lets others field the tax increases.

One by one, taxpayers told the elected officials that the rising price of homeownership in South Florida is hurting them.

Scott Katzer is worried he won't be able to afford to live here. He began courting a "wonderful woman from Jacksonville" four years ago, he told the crowd. He persuaded her to move to Fort Lauderdale. They've been house hunting.

"But realistically, we start looking at these tax numbers," he said.

While homesteaded properties would see their taxes go down, many speakers said rising taxes still touch them.

Florida tax law protects permanent homeowners with a constitutional amendment called Save Our Homes that provides a $25,000 exemption from a home's taxable value, as well as a 3 percent cap each year on the increase in that value.

The measure keeps taxes low for longtime owners, and shifts the tax burden to others, like those who just bought a home, or owners of commercial, or rental or vacation property.

About half the Fort Lauderdale properties have homestead protection. Those living in the half that don't are feeling the pinch of years of city tax increases.

One man said he has an aunt here who rents an apartment, and she can't afford the rent increases that landlords pass on when their taxes rise. He has relatives who want to move here but can't afford the taxes. One man owns a small inn, and he worried if he keeps raising room rates, one day the tourists won't come back.

Like other governments in South Florida, Fort Lauderdale has gleaned millions from rising property values. Since 2001, the city's property tax revenue has climbed from roughly $70 million to a proposed $140 million for 2006-07.

City property taxes on a $150,000 house in 2001 would have been about $610. Now, with the house's increased value and current tax rate, the city tax bill would be $1,211.

"We should all be ashamed of what's going on in the city. It's time to give homeowners a break, not just homesteaders," said Evelyn Vandermark, who lives in a nonhomesteaded property.

"It can't work. People can't support it and they're going to fold," said Richard Skrinde, who said he owns investment properties for which taxes are escalating. " ... It's off the hook," he said to loud applause.

Susan Lombardi said she'd never been to a city hearing before and was nervous. But the crowd liked what she had to say.

"Someone has to hear the poor working people," she urged. "If I have to live within my means, the town should live within its means."

Edwina Baniqued

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