Manatee A proposal to increase homestead exemptions from $50,000 to $75,000 for homes valued between $100,000 and $125,000 would cut property tax revenue by $600,000 in Bradenton and about $140,000 in Palmetto, according to estimates released by the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office.
Manatee County would lose somewhere in the neighborhood of $8.5 million.
If voters approve the measure in the November 2018 general election, the impacts to local budgets would take effect in the 2019-20. Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton, D-St. Petersburg, said the bill is part of a “a major assault on home rule” by the Legislature.
Newton, a freshman representative after winning the District 70 seat this past November, advised Bradenton officials this week, “Resolve your problems here, because you do not want legislators making decisions for you because that won’t be good.”
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We have people there that have never served a day in local government and they are in a position to do serious damage.
House District 70 Rep. Wengay Newton, D-St. Petersburg
Newton and other opponents of the bill say cities and counties would have to cut essential services and find ways to make up for lost revenue. Newton represents a small swath of Manatee and Sarasota counties with his primary district being Pinellas County, where Newton predicts the city of St. Petersburg alone would lose $20 million.
Bradenton Economic Development Director Carl Callahan said the loss for Bradenton could be severe.
“Our ad valorem taxes only pay about 75 percent of our public safety budget,” he said.
Proponents say raising the exemption would represent a tax cut for a small percentage of low-income residents and with rising property valuations, municipalities won’t feel the impact.
But it could impact municipalities like Bradenton, which is considering for the first time in years whether to lower the millage rate.
Vice Mayor Patrick Roff said the Legislature doesn’t understand the value of local government.
“It’s the cities that provide the policing, fire, public works, drinking water, trash pickup, street maintenance and even economic development,” Roff said. “Without the cities and counties, Florida would cease to function.”
Roff said he doubts Tallahassee office workers would to come to Bradenton to put out fires.
“We are not down here wasting money like we are being accused of by those part-time legislators in Tallahassee,” Roff said. “What we do is important. It’s irreplaceable.”
“It’s worse than what you think,” Newton said. “That’s the mindset. They believe local government has too much money and they waste it.”