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Amendment 3 asks voter approval for property tax breaks for some public service workers

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Erik (HASH) Hersman
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Flickr / Creative Commons
Florida voters will decide the fate of Amendment 3 in this year's election. It would grant additional homestead exemptions to some public service workers. But it has a limit on the value of a home that would be covered by the extra tax break.

Florida voters will be asked to decide the fate of Amendment 3. The measure on the November 8 ballot would grant property tax breaks to some public service workers and teachers who own homes, valued at certain amounts. At least 60% yes votes will be required to approve the amendment.

It would discount values for property tax purposes by up to $50,000. Teachers who own homes valued for tax purposes at $150,000 or less would get the additional homestead exemption.

"I think it's an effort to kind of lower taxes and show some respect to people in the education community," Kevin Daly, head of the Teacher's Association of Lee County, said. But he also noted the amendment would take money away from local governments.

The Tampa Bay Times found that it could cost governments just over $80 million dollars a year. Daly said other taxpayers might have to make up for the lost revenue.

Amendment 3 would help homeowners if they are teachers, law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, paramedics, active military members and Florida National Guard members, and state child welfare service employees. But it would apply only to homes assessed for property taxes at $150,000 or less.

The average home value in Lee County is more than $200,000, and that's why teacher Terri Hood of Gateway Elementary has doubts about the measure benefitting a lot of teachers.

"The amendment isn't going to help them at all because it's only going for those who are eligible with owning homes," Hood said.

If the measure passes and you own a home valued at $150,000 in Lee County, and work in one of the qualifying professions, you could save a lot on property taxes. The bill would go from about $1400 a year to just over $700.

John Cassandro is the president of the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association. He said some law enforcement officers in Florida survive on government subsidies, and the amendment could help.

"You can save $200, $300, $400 a year on taxes. Do the math - that's a lot of groceries," Cassandro said.

Still Kevin Daly of the Lee teacher's association voiced concerns about the measure. He noted that it does not cover school bus drivers or school cafeteria workers, and he wondered why they were not included. He said he gives credit to lawmakers who are trying to help public service employees, but he added that in his view the amendment tends to miss the mark.

This story was produced by Democracy Watch, a news service provided by Florida Gulf Coast University journalism students. Katie Fogarty, is a student in FGCU's Democracy Watch class.