Should seniors get more property tax breaks if it means public schools will lose money?

picture of doors and ceiling

Lawmakers in Tallahassee are proposing property tax breaks for certain seniors — an idea that would help elderly homeowners keep tax bills affordable but likely reduce dollars for public schools.

State Sen. Manny Diaz, a Republican representing part of Miami-Dade, is pushing to put a Constitutional amendment on the ballot in November 2020 or earlier, asking voters to essentially freeze home assessments that would reduce school property taxes in certain circumstances.

The homeowners would have to be at least 65 years old and have lived in their home for at least 25 years. In those cases, the assessments on the homes would not increase, which would reduce property taxes.

The amendment would take affect January 1, 2021, if voters approve.

The proposal comes at a time when education isn’t high on the list when it comes to the most important issues facing Florida, according to a new statewide poll.

Jobs and the economy, heath care, the environment and climate change, and immigration and crime ranked higher than education in the poll of 800 registered voters commissioned by the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), a conservative nonprofit founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush. The poll was conducted between January 23 and 25.

Seniors 65 and older ranked immigration, the environment and climate change and health care as the most important issues facing Florida, with education ranking 7th in the 10 categories.

The poll raises questions about why seniors 65 and older don’t consider education a priority compared to other issues, and whether those seniors should get property tax breaks that would potentially reduce school revenues.

The Florida Education Association has been pushing for more money for traditional public schools, for higher pay for teachers, smaller classes sizes and increases in funding for disadvantaged students and special needs children, among other needs.

And the union is fighting against an expansion of voucher programs that would allow students to attend private schools with public money.

Here is the text of the Constitutional Amendment:

HOMESTEAD ASSESSMENT LIMITATION FOR SCHOOL DISTRICT LEVY
PURPOSES FOR CERTAIN PERSONS AGE 65 OR OLDER.—Authorizes the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit increases in the
assessed value of homestead property, for school district levy
purposes, if the legal or equitable title to the property is held by a person who is 65 years of age or older and if he or she has held such title and maintained permanent residence on the property for at least 25 years. This amendment takes effect January 1, 2021.

 

 

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.

1 COMMENT

  1. As a senior and former educator, it isn’t wise to subsidize seniors at the expense of education. Seniors need responsible and educated individuals to care for them: financial, security, medical, emotional, daily activities. If a senior has owned a home for 25 years and cannot pay taxes then it may be time to reevaluate their spending patterns and housing needs. Chances are the house is worth much more than 25 years ago plus downsizing probably makes sense.

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