By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- The Indian River County board of county commissioners voted to reject an additional property tax exemption in the county.
A vote to apply a second homestead tax exemption that applies solely to senior citizens failed to pass with the required supermajority vote, failing 3-2, with commissioners Peter O'Bryan and Bob Solari voting against adding the exemption.
The vote mirrored a previous vote on bringing the exemption to the floor for a public hearing.
During the 2012 general election, more than 60 percent of Florida voters voted for Amendment 11, which provided a new homestead exemption for seniors that have lived in the area 25 years or longer. 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.
The proposed homestead exemption would have been $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.
Commissioner O'Bryan reiterated his stance that a governing board must sometimes make a less popular decision for the greater good of the community.
He added that county staff has worked hard to reduce the budget while still keeping services at the highest possible level, and that removing more ad valorem revenue outside of the budgeting process would be incorrect.
Commissioner Solari said that reliving the tax burden on one group would just increase it on another group, and that the exemptions already in place were more than enough.
During the meeting, resident David Durni spoke in favor of the exemption, illustrating how the exemption would benefit the oldest generation of citizens that have lived here for more than two decades, particularly those who are on strict low incomes.
He also said he was very surprised that something that was put to a public vote and passed, could be changed after the fact by legislators.
Commissioners thanked Mr. Durndi for his presentation and research, but since a supermajority was needed to institute the home extension, Mr. Durni went home disappointed.
Commissioner Wesley Davis, who was in favor of passing the exemption, said although it was difficult for county staff to measure the impact such an exemption would have on residents, in some cases even $100 of savings could mean the difference between a senior getting the nutrition they need or going without.
For more information about county government meetings, visit www.ircgov.com.