CRESTVIEW — A divided city council on Monday didn’t take action on an agenda item that would have made a resolution opposing Amendment 4, an item on next month’s statewide ballot. The Florida League of Cities had requested that local governments pass resolutions opposing the amendment.
Because the amendment would prevent local municipalities from raising the assessed value on residents’ property to maintain a steady tax income, even if the property value has declined since the previous year, real estate agents support the initiative.
Present at the meeting was Cliff Long, an executive with the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors, who was prepared to speak against the resolution if it came to a vote. Long said other business groups also support the amendment, which would increase the homestead exemption for first-time homebuyers and reduce assessment limits.
“… We have the local chambers (of commerce) with us, the Florida chamber as well,” Long said. “This whole resolution, the League of Cities is trying to push all the cities to support it.”
City Clerk Betsy Roy, recommending the city council pass the resolution, cited “potential loss of property tax income if the amendment passes.” However, the council — led by Councilwoman Robyn Helt, a real estate agent — was divided on the issue.
“I do not see the need for the city to pass a resolution,” Helt said. “I would not be in favor of supporting a resolution but I am personally in favor of Amendment 4.”
Stating that she could see “the League of Cities’ position concerning the amount of taxes that could be recouped,” Helt said her responsibility was to Crestview’s property tax paying residents.
“There is a provision of the existing law that concerns me greatly — that there would be increased taxation if a property owner’s property value declines, their assessed value can continue to go up, and I think that is highly unfair,” Helt said.
Councilman Tom Gordon said he could appreciate both sides of the issue, but personally, “I am not in favor of Amendment 4.”
In addition, Helt said passing the amendment also could positively affect companies’ relocation decisions. "Passing amendment 4 would potentially attract new companies and create jobs and additional revenue for our state and boost our economy," she said.
Councilman Charles Baugh Jr., a member of the Florida League of Cities board of directors, said, “It is important that the Florida League of Cities take a position on this matter.”
However, Baugh said he would prefer voters inform themselves of the amendment’s provisions as well as other initiatives on the ballot, before voting.
“I would just ask the citizens inform themselves of this matter,” he said.
Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Councilwoman Robyn Helt was opposed to Amendment 4 and felt its passage would be detrimental to attracting new business to the state. The News Bulletin apologizes for the error.