High property taxes are robbing residents

If you’re reading this newspaper, you’re most likely a student. And if you’re a student, you probably don’t own a house. Unfortunately, property taxes affect you anyway.

The apartment complex you rent from pays property taxes. The owner of the house you share with your roommates? Property taxes apply to the owner as well. There’s no getting around it. At some point in the financial pecking order, someone is paying taxes on property.

The good side of the issue is that more people are taking interest in local governance. The reason why they are interested, however, is because property taxes are out of control.

You might not have noticed. Most people, after all, don’t have a property tax bill. They pay those taxes as part of the mortgage or rent. Also, property taxes don’t generally increase rapidly. Due to a constitutional amendment passed in 1992, a property’s tax burden can increase by no more than 3 percent a year.

That is, unless you own commercial and rental properties, or even vacant land. In those cases, homestead exemptions do not apply, and there is no limit on how much taxes can increase. For some, taxes have doubled or tripled over the past year, according to the Tampa Tribune.

The result? The state of Florida is receiving huge windfalls of extra money on the backs of real estate investors. That money is apparently needed by the state – Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio’s newest budget will cost $728 million.

Understandably, real estate investors aren’t happy. Neither are those who rent from investors who will end up paying for the increased costs. Joining their cause is St. Petersburg Councilman and state House of Representatives candidate Rick Kriseman.

“We see increases in the taxes even though we lower the millage (the tax rate) because your property’s being appraised at highest and best use,” Kriseman told the Tribune. “Well, you know what? That’s not a fair way to do it, and that needs to change.”

Kriseman is absolutely correct – it does need to change. In fact, it did. The Tampa City Council lowered the property tax rate by 2 percent. Other city councils, such as Pinellas, are doing likewise.

The cuts may not be enough to offset the record costs, but certainly they are better than Iorio’s solution – her budget didn’t change the property tax rate at all.

Just goes to show: If the government is left to its own devices, it has no problem taxing people amounts they cannot pay.