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Property Tax, Anti-development Amendments Off Ballot/Users/adamp/Desktop/Stuff for FAR/Magazine Assets/OCT08/images/Upfront

Separate court rulings have kicked two proposed constitutional amendments off the November 4 ballot.

Amendment 5: Gone but not forgotten
Floridians hoping for lower property taxes will have to wait for the 2009 Legislature—or another ballot referendum—to get the job done.

 The Florida Supreme Court removed Amendment 5 from the Nov. 4 ballot, ruling the language “misleading.” Amendment 5 would have reduced most property owners’ tax bills by an average of 25 to 40 percent by eliminating the local effort portion of school property taxes. Supporters included the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR) and Gov. Charlie Crist.

Hometown Democracy: Third time’s a charm?
For the third consecutive election cycle, the grassroots group known as Hometown Democracy has failed to get its proposed anti-growth amendment before Florida voters.

 U.S. District Judge Stephen P. Mickle dismissed a lawsuit by Florida Hometown Democracy Inc. challenging the Feb. 1, 2008, deadline for producing 611,009 verified signatures in order to get its initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot. The suit alleged that state and local election officials failed to verify thousands of valid signatures turned in before the Feb. 1 deadline. The group fell short by about 65,000 signatures.

 The amendment, which FAR and other business groups oppose, would require voter approval for all changes to local growth management plans. Florida Hometown Democracy backers vow to get their initiative on the 2010 ballot.


Marketing

Common Courtesy Prevails

It seems obvious, but when showing property, common courtesy is vital. “I would guess that one out of eight agents give me feedback [on a showing],” says Deborah M. London, P.A., a sales associate with RE/MAX Partners in Fort Lauderdale. When I don’t get [feedback], I have to tell the seller (who was kind enough to let me use a lockbox and allow strangers into his home) that the agent hasn’t returned any of my calls. It’s frustrating,” she says.

Here are her Dos and Don’ts when showing property:
Dos
Do remember to knock first.
Do remember to leave a card on the kitchen counter so the seller knows you came.
Do remember to turn off all the lights and lock the doors.
Do remember to call if you’re not
going to show up.
Do remember to be on time, or call if you will be more than 15 minutes late.
Do return calls for feedback when asked.

Do report any problems that you see (e.g. leaky toilet, dripping air conditioning, broken lock) to the listing agent.

Don’ts
Don’t wait until the last minute to schedule showings.
Don’t talk negatively about the property in front of the owner.
Don’t show up more than 15 minutes late.
Don’t park on the grass.

Your Business

Max Your Tax Savings

Did you know that individual taxpayers aren’t the only ones who benefit from the 2008 Economic Stimulus package?

There are tax incentives and savings for small business owners (and this includes real estate professionals) as well—including a 50 percent bonus depreciation allowance on equipment purchased and placed in service in calendar year 2008 and an almost 100 percent increase in the amount (from $128,000 to $250,000) that a business can expense for equipment purchased and placed in the business tax year beginning in 2008.

To help the nation’s entrepreneur’s maximize all that the stimulus package has to offer, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has launched an online tax savings resource center at www.sba.gov/stimulus that connects the nation’s entrepreneurs with tax management tools and strategies. The site offers a fact sheet, an online seminar that highlights each of the tax benefits, and a depreciation calculator.

“I appreciate that the government is making sure they communicate new programs and benefits available to small businesses and consumers,” says Joe Ballarino, founder and president of Amerivest Realty in Naples. “Be sure to pass this information along to your accountant so you can take advantage of it.”

Hometown Hero
Take Stock in Children

Bob Memoli knows what it’s like to come from a poor background, work minimum-wage jobs to survive, and struggle to get an education. As a 9-year-old growing up in the Bronx, he rummaged through garbage bins for discarded toys, baseball cards and marbles to sell on the street corner.

By the age of 12, his paper route earnings helped support his immigrant family. That’s why he’s so passionate about helping others break the cycle of poverty.

For more than a decade, Memoli, broker-owner of Florida Luxury Realty in Trinity, has dedicated himself to the Pasco Education Foundation’s Take Stock in Children program. Designed to help underprivileged children stay in school, the program pairs at-risk students—beginning as early as the sixth grade—with community members who serve as mentors. To remain in the program, the student must uphold a performance contract to earn passing grades, exhibit positive behaviors and remain drug and crime free. If triumphant, he or she will also receive a full college tuition scholarship and career counseling.

Make a Difference
Memoli has raised $100,000 in scholarships, coordinated fundraising events, recruited other volunteers and mentored a high school student for the last four years. He meets with Brendan, now a high school junior, once each week in the school guidance office.

“I always bring lunch and we talk about things that mean a lot to him, like baseball, school and even girls,” says Memoli, adding that he delicately dispenses advice. There’s no doubt the weekly meetings make a difference in the boy’s life, as he’s also dealing with tough issues on the home front (his mother has multiple sclerosis and his sister has cerebral palsy). “He wants to be a doctor,” says Memoli, “and I think he can do it. It’s miraculous to have this opportunity to help this kid and watch him grow.”

The Pasco Education Foundation Inc., was established in 1991 as a direct support, nonprofit corporation that makes philanthropic contributions to Pasco County’s public school. Each dollar contributed to Take Stock in Children is matched by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Inc. STARS’ program.

Want to Contribute?
Visit The Pasco Education Foundation online at www.pascoeducationfoundation.org or call (813) 794-2705.