Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Scott-O-Meter

Reduce property tax by another 1 mill over next 7 years

"Phase in another 1 mill reduction (to the school property tax) over the next 7 years."


Updates

Required local effort's rate barely budges in four years

Rick Scott campaigned on lowering state-imposed school property taxes as part of a seven-year plan, but the effort hasn't had an auspicious start: Those taxes are barely lower now than when he took office.

Scott had a "7-7-7" plan to create 700,000 private jobs over seven years that included reducing reduce the statewide property tax (known as the "required local effort") by $1.4 billion. Then he promised to cut an additional $1.4 billion to be phased in over seven years .

School budgets are comprised of a combination of state and local funding. Each school district must contribute property tax dollars -- called the "required local effort" -- in an amount dictated by the state. The governor and Legislature have a say in that rate.

At first, Scott promised to drop the millage rate (that is, the rate at which taxes are calculated based on property values) from 5.29 to 4.29 in his first year. Instead, the rate went up in 2011, to 5.446. So we rated that a Promise Broken.

For the second part of the promise, which we're reviewing here, Scott said he would cut the rate another mill, from 4.29 to 3.29 over seven years.

Now, almost four years into his term, that hasn't happened, although his office is quick to point out there have been numerous property tax reduction proposals, some of which have been enacted and some of which haven't.

"Gov. Scott has reduced property taxes and will continue to look for ways to do so in the future," spokesman John Tupps told PolitiFact Florida.

But the millage rate for the required local effort has only dropped slightly, set at 5.18 the last two years. With the steady increase in property values, that rate will be bringing in more tax money than before. For 2014-15, keeping the 5.18 rate is projected to generate about $347 million more for schools than the prior year.

While the current rate is lower than what it was in 2010, it's not even close to 3.29, which is what Scott had promised.

If Scott wins re-election, he will still have time to lower the required local effort rate as much as he originally promised, and we'll review our rating. But for now, we rate this a Promise Broken.

Sources:

PolitiFact Florida, "School tax cuts proposed are less than half of what Rick Scott promised," Feb, 9, 2011

Tampa Bay Times, "Florida Gov. Rick Scott proposes $74 billion budget with new money going into tax relief," Jan. 29, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Rick Scott, Charlie Crist ready to rumble," May 5, 2014

PolitiFact Florida, "Gov. Scott claims he 'cut taxes 40 times for Florida families'," May 21, 2014

Florida Department of Education, "Final Conference Report for House Bill 5001," April 29, 2014, accessed July 18, 2014

Interview with John Tupps, Rick Scott spokesperson, June 27, 2014

Interview with Cheryl Etters, Florida Department of Education spokesperson, July 18, 2014

On amendments, voters not quite as anti-tax as Scott, Legislature

On the 2010 campaign trail, Rick Scott called Florida's property tax system its "No. 1 tax problem.

The 2012 general election gave Florida voters several opportunities to express if they shared his appetite for reducing the tax burden. Of 11 proposed constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Legislature and approved by Scott, several focused on property tax exemptions.

Voters shot down eight amendments, including Amendment 4, which would have offered $1.7 billion in tax relief mainly to businesses, first-time home buyers and second-home owners. City and county government officials warned they would have to scale down services or raise taxes to cope with the tax break if it passed.

Voters also killed a measure favored by Scott that would have doubled the tax exemption for businesses with tangible personal property -- furniture, machinery, shelving and other equipment -- resulting in a $20 million tax cut. Amendment 10 also would have allowed local governments to approval additional exemptions beyond the $50,000 exemption.

Still, three targeted tax-relief proposals -- engineered by the Legislature, not Scott -- nabbed the required 60 percent approval from voters. We should note, though, that these measures specifically say that the property owners are not exempt from paying school taxes.

Amendment 2 expands a property tax discount to disabled veterans who moved to Florida after entering the military. Amendment 9 gives a full property tax exemption to the spouses of military veterans and first responders who are killed in the line of duty. And Amendment 11 permits local governments to give an additional homestead tax exemption for certain low-income seniors.

That said, these amendments don't really help the part of Scott's 7-7-7 plan that called for reducing the state-imposed school property tax his first year in office and beyond. His promise to reduce the mill by 19 percent is Promise Broken, and this promise to reduce it by another mill over seven years remains Stalled.

Sources:

Interview with Kurt Wenner, Florida Tax Watch, Nov. 12, 2012

Interview with John Thomas, Florida league of Cities spokesman, Nov. 13, 2012

Tampa Bay Times, 2012 amendment guide, accessed Nov. 13, 2012

Interview with Cheryl Etters, Department of Education spokeswoman, Nov. 13, 2012

Interview with Jackie Schutz, Gov. Rick Scott spokeswoman, Nov. 13, 2012

Collins Center for Public Policy, 2012 proposed constitutional amendments guide, accessed Nov. 13, 2012

State-imposed school tax rate is up, not down

Rick Scott told voters in 2010 that he could cut school property taxes and still find money to fund the K-12 system and balance the state budget.

Words, it turns out, are easier to offer than actions.

Scott promised during the campaign to cut the state-imposed school property tax 19 percent in his first year in office. He then said he would phase in additional cuts to the tax, called the Required Local Effort, over future years.

The first promise we found to be Promise Broken.

Scott never even proposed the full tax cut in his first-year budget. What he did propose, a more modest cut, was rejected by the Legislature.

Scott promised to lower the millage rate -- which is a multiplier used to calculate your tax bill based on the value of your property -- from 5.29 to 4.29 in his first year. But the rate went up, not down, to 5.446.

To keep the second leg of the promise, Scott said he would cut the millage rate again from 4.29 to 3.29 over seven years.

The budget request from the Florida Department of Education for 2012-13 anticipates keeping the tax rate at the same level from 2011-12, 5.446. The final rate will not be known until after the Legislature passes the state budget.

(A note for the budget wonks in the crowd: The tax rate is set by the Florida Department of Education; the Legislature and governor settle on a dollar figure that needs to be generated by the Required Local Effort. And since a person"s tax bill is dependent on the rate and property values, the rate can increase but your tax bill can still decrease.)

Scott"s office noted that the 2011-12 budget did include a cap on the amount of property taxes that can be collected by state water management districts. But that"s outside the scope of this promise, which is about school property taxes.

We"ll wait one more year to see if Scott has made progress in cutting school taxes. For now, however, this promise is Stalled.

Sources:

Scott-O-Meter,  "Reduce property tax (Required Local Effort) by 1 mill,” accessed Jan. 4, 2012

Statewide average Required Local Effort tax rate, 2010-11

Statewide average Required Local Effort tax rate, 2011-12

Statewide average Required Local Effort tax rate, proposed, 2012-13

Gov. Rick Scott's Communications Office, written responses to PolitiFact's questions about the Scott-O-Meter, Dec. 28, 2011