Petition Drive Aims to Save Homeowners Hundreds of Dollars a Year

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Regardless of population trends, real estate prices are skyrocketing here in the panhandle and there's a new push to give homeowners a break.

One group is circulating a petition to raise the Homestead Exemption from $25,000 to $50,000. If you own a home it's likely hundreds of dollars a year are coming out of your pocket to pay for services you may or may not use. That's why many homeowners are excited about an idea to double the Homestead Exemption.

"I think it would be a good idea because there's a lot of people on fixed incomes in our neighborhood. I'm sure it would help a lot of older people in the neighborhood," says Bay County homeowner Virginia Clement.

The savings would be significant for homeowners like Virginia who live in the county. If this constitutional amendment is passed she'd spend about $400 less a year in taxes, but local government officials say there are some drawbacks.

"Some counties have a larger population of lower valued homes, and it could hurt them seriously, so you have to look at each county. We're lucky here in Bay County, we're growing, our revenues are increasing. It's possible we could afford it, but it needs some studying. I wouldn't want to take a stance right now," says Bay County Property Appraiser, Rick Barnett.

Barnett may not want to take a stance right now because doubling the Homestead Exemption would mean a big cut in education.

"Most of our funding comes from the tax base in our county. From an ad valorem tax we levy against our citizens. When there's a decrease in that it effects the school system," says Bay County School District’s Superintendent, James McCalister.

Petition organizers have until August 3 to collect the 488,000 signatures to get the amendment on the November ballot. They're about halfway there.