LARG0 – The Largo Commission gave initial approval Dec. 18 to increase the extra homestead property tax exemption granted to seniors who have an income of about $27,000 or less.
The city is poised to lose $83,171 in tax revenue in order to grant the additional relief to low-income seniors. The exemption set for a boost is one added on top of the standard exemption of $50,000 for homesteaded properties.
Largo first enacted the additional $15,000 exemption for seniors during the 2007 tax year. The new proposal, supported by the commission last week, would increase that exemption to $25,000. The change comes thanks to an amendment to the Florida constitution approved by voters in November.
In order to qualify for the exemption, residents must be 65 years or older and be a permanent resident of their homesteaded home for 25 years. The residents’ household income also must fall below the level defined as low-income, which is currently $27,030, but likely will increase slightly for 2013, explained Amy Davis, city budget manager.
The Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s Office estimates that roughly 1,273 Largo homes would be affected by the change, Davis said. Seniors will have to apply every year in order to take advantage of the exemption, but would be reminded after they qualify the first time.
The resolution, which commissioners approved unanimously Dec. 18, must pass a second reading, scheduled for Jan. 8.
Resolution supports domestic registry
With county commissioners considering a countywide domestic partnership registry in January, Largo city leaders passed a resolution 6-1 supporting the effort and recognizing the need for a registry that would grant certain privileges to domestic partners.
The registry would recognize couples who are not married but maintain a committed relationship, typically residing within the same household, possibly with children. Registered partners would be able to make health care facility visits, make decisions on each others’ behalf about health care and funeral arrangements and participate in the education of their dependents.
The majority of the Largo Commission passed the resolution without comment. The sole dissenter was Commissioner Curtis Holmes, who argued that the measure would set up a “special class of people” who are “totally avoiding all the consequences” of being married.
“When you are married, yes, you have certain privileges, you have certain rights. But being married also has consequences,” he said.
Married couples can be held financially responsible for medical claims and their spouse’s care in a nursing home, he said.
“If you want to make the whole good for the goose is good for the gander, I don’t have a problem with that whatsoever,” he explained. “Whether this passes or not, the county is going to pass theirs.”
One Largo resident, Geoffrey Moakley, also voiced opposition to the proposal, arguing that government should stay “out of individual decisions and responsibilities.”
“Common law marriage, it’s not recognized in Florida. Therefore, Largo and Pinellas County should not be encouraging, enabling it and embedding it with this proposal,” he said. “It’s just one more step in the ever proceeding religion of the non-marrieds.”
Shop with a Cop
During the meeting, Holmes reported on the city’s seventh annual Shop with a Cop or Firefighter program, which treated 20 local families to a Christmas shopping spree Dec. 15.
The off duty personnel from the police and fire departments volunteered their time for the shopping trip that morning at the Walmart on Missouri Avenue in Largo. Families designated a child as their shopper to pick out presents for the entire family.
One 11-year-old girl, a victim of a crime herself, said she had to look for presents for father, mother, step mother, brother, sister and best friend before picking out something for herself, Holmes said.
“It was an unreal event,” Assistant Fire Chief Michael Handoga commented.
More than $6,500 was raised for the program this year, including $3,000 from the Walmart Foundation, $2,000 from the West Florida Y Runners Club’s annual Turkey Trot proceeds, $500 raised by a 13-year-old Largo resident and past beneficiary of the program Jeremy Watton and $100 from City Manager Mac Craig. Police officers and firefighters also donated money and gift cards to the cause.
“Also donations were made directly to Chief Carol by shoppers at Walmart who were shopping at the store at the time of the event,” Holmes said.