Senior citizens in Marion Co. lose battle over property tax break



MARION COUNTY, Fla. - A group of senior citizens faced off with the Marion County Commission on Tuesday and lost a battle over a property tax break.

Residents asked the commission to implement Amendment 11, which was approved by Florida voters in November.

Channel 9's Berndt Petersen learned some county leaders said there are already too many tax exemptions, but some seniors said in the last two weeks, county leaders had no problem giving nearly a $1 million worth of incentives to  FedEx and another major company that's coming to the county.

Those residents also accuse the commission of ignoring the will of the voters.

"This county here has always been for the wealthy," said resident Anita Frauenshuh.

Frauenshuh led a group of seniors to the county commission, urging the board to implement Amendment 11.

"I'd like to see my vote stand for something," said Frauenshuh.

The amendment exempts low-income residents 65 and older who have lived in their homes at least 25 years from paying property taxes. It's a break some said they desperately need.

But Amendment 11's passage by 61 percent of Florida voters came with a catch, according to Stan McClain of the Marion County Commission.

"What you voted for was not an exemption. You voted that this county commission would have the opportunity to make this decision," said McClain.

In a 3-2 vote, that decision was no. It would have cost the county $160,000 this year.

Residents said that's nothing when you consider Marion's $500 million budget and each commissioner's $75,000 annual salary.

"We don't sit up here with big fat wallets as some of you seem to think we do and are able to just go out and spend, spend, spend," said Commission chairwoman Kathy Bryant.