Stevenson to file hurricane tax relief legislation


State Rep. Cyndi Stevenson plans to file legislation this week that will provide tax relief for individuals whose homes were made uninhabitable in 2016 due to a hurricane.

According to Stevenson’s office, the proposed bill would allow individuals with a homestead exemption whose homes sustained major damage to apply for a partial property tax reimbursement of up to $1,500. For those individuals who have purchased a mobile home as a replacement to a prior home, the legislation permits the homeowner to apply for a partial sales tax reimbursement of up to $1,500.

In order to qualify for the reimbursement, the impacted home must have been uninhabitable for more than 60 days within the 2016 calendar year. The bill also creates an appeals process to review applications to ensure the claims of eligible individuals are properly evaluated and reimbursements are accurately calculated, and includes criminal penalties for those who submit false or misleading applications. 

In an interview with the Ponte Vedra Recorder, Stevenson said she has been working on the proposed legislation since October, when St. Johns County Tax Collector Dennis Hollingsworth notified her that county homeowners – including those who had just sustained major damage from Hurricane Matthew – would soon be receiving their property tax bills in the mail, and there was nothing that could be done under current statue to assist impacted homeowners.

“One week after Hurricane Matthew raked the First Coast, many whose homes were destroyed received their property tax bill,” Stevenson said. “This legislation provides relief from the sting of those taxes, returning to them some of their resources to help them in their recovery.”

Stevenson noted that her legislation is informed by the data collected regarding property damage within the county following hurricanes Hermine and Matthew.

“We went out to assess the damage, we have good numbers on that,” she said, adding that her proposed bill offers a workable approach to aiding impacted country residents.

While cautioning that the bill must first win approval from both the legislature and the governor during what is expected to be a tight budget year, Stevenson said she is ready to wage the legislative battle required to win its passage.

“It’s fair, it’s just and the people who had a lot of damage could use the relief.”