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Date of Issue: April 05, 2007

CART meeting to update property tax proposals

The Citizens Against Runaway Taxation will meet with the general public at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, at the Holmes Beach City Hall to update Islanders on the latest tax relief proposals before the Florida Legislature.

CART president Don Schroder said CART has "some problems" with some of the proposals for tax relief now being discussed. In particular, CART objects to the fact that the state representatives are not addressing problems CART has with the tax appraisal method used by some county property appraisers that allows them to appraise a property at its "highest and best use." However, noted Schroder, the Florida Senate plans to address this issue.

The "highest and best use" method of property appraisal has driven a number of Island "mom-and-pop" motel and small business owners out of business in the past few years because they can't generate enough income to pay their rising taxes, Schroder and CART have long noted.

He also said that at its meeting, CART will discuss a proposal currently in the Florida Legislature to allow counties to increase the sales tax by as much as two-and-a-half percent, but reduce ad valorem taxes.

This might place an unfair tax burden on Manatee and Sarasota counties, which only receive back 86 percent of the sales tax revenues they generate for the state.

"That's not equitable," Schroder observed.

Additionally, such a tax increase would be added to the already existing "bed tax," placing an additional 12 to 13 percent tax on a motel room. That's a tax that visitors to beach communities such as Anna Maria Island might not want to bear.

Schroder also noted that no figures have been generated that show how much revenue a sales tax increase would generate and if the increase in sales tax would offset any reduction in property taxes.

The Legislature is also considering a proposal to reduce ad valorem tax rates to 2004 levels and CART would like to see data from its members on how this reduction might help or hurt a business or homeowner. A legislative sub-committee had originally recommended a roll back to 2001 tax levels, a move that would have cut municipal budgets by an average of 38 percent, but would have exempted 30 of Florida's smaller and "financially restrained" counties.

Even a reduction to 2004 tax rates likely won't help Island cities maintain municipal services, said Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford.

"That's certainly better than going back to 2001," said Barford, "but we would still have to curtail many services and projects." City staff are presently preparing an estimate of how much revenue would be lost if the Legislature sets ad valorem taxes at their 2004 levels.