Florida voters’ recent overwhelming approval of a constitutional amendment to reduce property taxes has contractor groups worried government-funded construction plans could be negatively impacted.
The Jan. 29 Amendment 1 vote, which garnered approximately 64% approval, “was not a good day for publicly funded construction in the state of Florida,” says Daniel E. Whiteman, president of Coastal Construction Co., Miami, where the amendment won its strongest support.
Amendment 1 was championed as providing about $9.3 billion in property-tax relief while at the same time providing a potential boost to the state’s depressed housing market.
Local and county governments largely opposed the measure, indicating it would force major cuts in their budgets. School and education construction spending was at the top of contractors' concerns. “There is some well-founded nervousness” about school construction, says Mark Wylie, president and CEO of the Central Florida chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. “I was hard-pressed to find anybody in our industry who was supporting this amendment.”
So far, the potential impact is up for debate. “It will have some effect; the question is how much,” says Rick Collins, chief financial officer with Orange County Public Schools in Orlando. “Preliminary data from the state Economic and Demographic Research Dept. show our overall potential for loss in revenue at $20.5 million over five years, and it would limit our ability to borrow money.”
The restoration of Florida’s Everglades, so far largely funded by the state, could suffer as a result of the limited borrowing capability. “It’s too early to speculate at this point,” says Randy Smith, media relations with the South Florida Water Management District. “The district’s Accounting and Budget Dept. will continue to analyze the possibilities and explore all options. Everglades restoration will continue.”
“The good thing is this isn’t something that turns on a dime,” Wylie says. “It’s going to take a while to digest.”