Florida voters last January approved Amendment One, which mandated an extra $25,000 homestead exemption on top of an existing $25,000 tax exemption on homestead properties.
But after property owners received their tax bills last week, the tax collector's and property appraiser's phones were busy with calls from people wondering about their bills, especially where their extra $25,000 tax exemption went.
"It was always the same question," said Lynn Marine, with the Highlands County Tax Collector's Office. "'Did I get my exemption?'"
Basically, the way the second exemption works is that the homeowner gets the first $25,000 exemption for the first $25,000 of assessed value. The second exemption is only applied to the assessed value between $50,000 and $75,000.
Therefore, if a home is assessed at $59,050, the second exemption is for $9,050; and if a home is assessed for $71,000, the second exemption is for $21,000.
Only if the home is assessed for $75,000 or more is the full second exemption allowed - but not on all property taxes.
The second exemption applies to all millage except school property taxes, said Ed Sager, commercial coordinator for the property appraiser.
So, in other words, homeowners do not get a break on their school property taxes for the second exemption.
While the Tax Collector Charles Bryan's office collects the tax money, it is the office of Raymond McIntyre, the Highlands County Property Appraiser, which works out the property tax amounts, and is the right office to contact for questions and concerns about property appraisals and exemptions.
"The Legislature has made it very interesting. I'm sad to say it's downright complicated," Sager added.
The time to formerly appeal the tax bill expired in September, but that doesn't mean it's too late to get answers.
Wanda Whitehouse, with the property appraiser's office, suggested that anyone who thinks their bill is wrong to come into the property appraiser's office at the Highlands County Government Center at 560 S. Commerce Ave., Sebring call the office at 863-402-6659, or visit the Web at www.appraiser.co.highlands.fl.us .
"Rather than ask a neighbor or sit there and stew about it, we want them to call and ask about it," she said.
To calculate your second ad valorem tax exemption:
If the assessed value on your 2008 real estate tax bill is greater than $50,000 up to $75,000, subtract $50,000 from your assessed value.
Take that total and add it to $25,000, and that is your total ad valorem tax exemption amount, not included for any school board taxes.