Sen. Jeff Brandes wants to amend the Florida Constitution to give a property tax break to homeowners for home improvements that prevent flooding.
Brandes isn’t the only Legislator who likes the idea. In a Senate Finance and Tax Committee meeting Wednesday, other senators used debate to praise the joint resolution (SJR 1182), including fellow Pinellas Sen. Ed Hooper.
“My property appraiser and yours from Pinellas County has been very vocal about how excited they are that you’re bringing forward this legislation. So, thank you. And for everybody that is impacted by potential flooding, this is a win, and they need to win very badly in that arena,” Hooper said.
“I’m not used to having senators praise my legislation, so I’ll just waive,” Brandes quipped after debate.
The resolution passed the committee unanimously. It now heads to its final committee stop, Appropriations.
The bill (SB 1186) underlying the resolution seeks to help with flooding challenges facing the state’s homeowners.
“We have a variety of different challenges. We’ve seen that the change in the king tides, specifically in Miami-Dade and some areas of Pinellas County, we think that this will help provide a stronger incentive for people to look at mitigating the risks of the properties,” Brandes said after the committee meeting.
While coastal communities are disproportionately affected by flooding, the bill would apply to home improvements to prevent inland flooding as well.
Statistics from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were cited in the bill’s analysis, which said more than 1.7 million properties in Florida are at risk of flooding in a 100-year storm.
But the property tax break will cost local governments. If the joint resolution is adopted by voters, the Revenue Estimating Conference estimates the tax break would reduce local government revenue by $5.8 million in the first year, which would be Fiscal Year 2023-2024, and would continue to reduce local government revenue by $25.1 million each year after that.
“But when you divide that amongst the (67) counties it’s not a huge cost to any single county, and counties should be able to very easily absorb this, especially when you see the benefit of ultimately improving the property values down the road,” Brandes explained.
Under the bill, home improvements to prevent flooding would not be included in property value assessments for tax purposes. Flood mitigation efforts could range from elevating structures, filling basements, and waterproofing to non-structural mitigation efforts, like maintaining land to allow for stormwater runoff, waterproofing basements, installing check valves capable of preventing water backup, and elevating furnaces, heaters, and electrical panels.
The bill stipulates that homes may not exceed more than 110% of the original square footage after the repairs to keep homeowners from making major upgrades to their homes disguised as flood mitigation efforts.
To become law, the joint resolution would have to be approved by three-fifths of the membership of each legislative body. If approved by members, the proposal would still need the support of more than 60% of Florida voters in the next General Election, which takes place November 2022.
House companion legislation (HJR 1377) is headed to a final committee stop, the State Affairs Committee.