By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- Discussion about offering an additional homestead exemption to qualified seniors in Indian River County will move forward in the county commission chambers, but it isn't likely to make it into the county ordinances.
During the May 7 Indian River County commissioners meeting, county attorney Alan Polackwich outlined the current property tax exemptions available to residents in Indian River County and presented a new option for citizens older than 65.
The board voted 3-2 with commissioners Peter O'Bryan and Bob Solari dissenting, to move the ordinance forward to public hearings, but in order to ultimately pass the ordinance, the vote would need to be at least 4-1.
The draft ordinance proposes a homestead exemption of $25,000 for seniors older than 65 who have property valued at less than $250,000, have maintained residence on the property for at least 25 years and whose income does not exceed a certain amount set by the Department of Revenue and is annually adjusted by the state average cost-of-living index.
During the 2012 general election, more than 60 percent of Florida voters voted for a new homestead exemption for seniors, Amendment 11, and the state legislature revised it to include language that said in order to make it official, county commissions have to approve it in their districts by a super-majority, or a majority of the board, plus one vote, according to backup provided to the commission by the county attorney.
In order for it to apply to the 2014 tax year, it must be adopted prior to December 1, 2013.
Commissioner Wesley Davis was in favor of moving the issue forward, saying he'd like to know what the residents have to say about offering the exemption.
Commissioner O'Bryan likened the exemption to offering children ice cream or a healthy meal for dinner, saying their job was to make the right judgment call for their constituents.
He said 25 years of residency seemed to be arbitrary and would be the "camel's nose under the tent" and open doors for special entitlement groups.
Commission Chairman Joe Flescher said he viewed the issue as a way to possibly give back to senior citizens who have lived in the county for a long time, and have continuously paid taxes for the school district long after they had children in their household.
Mr. Polackwich said he checked with the county property appraiser to see how much revenue could be expected to be affected should the ordinance be instituted.
The property appraiser's office estimated that the revenue loss to the county would be $11,600.
The issue will come before the commissioners again, but a date has not yet been set.
For more information about upcoming county government meetings and agenda items, visit www.ircgov.com.