Georgia East, Dana Williams And Lisa J. Hurisch, Sun-sentinel via Palm Beach Post

When Michelais Josemond bought his two-bedroom condo in Tamarac four years ago, he paid $185,000 and had a property tax bill of about $2,500.

Today, his apartment is worth $18,000 and his tax bill is zero.

He is among the more than 18,800 homeowners in Broward County and 16,700 in Palm Beach County–living in houses, condos or coops–who are not required to pay property taxes because the value of their units is less than their $25,000 homestead exemption.

That’s a 135 percent increase between 2008 and 2010 in Broward, and a 48 percent increase in Palm Beach, county records show. While these homeowners still must pay fees such as fire assesments, the loss of this revenue, coupled with a drop in tax revenue overall, is forcing municipalities to slash payrolls and services.

“The reality is nobody wants to be taxed,” said Scott Maxwell, a city commissioner in Lake Worth, which saw a 85 percent jump in untaxed property and expects a $4 million budget shortfall. “At the end of the day, if we’re honest with ourselves, we need to understand that each of us should contribute a little something to the community.”

Overall, non-payers make up only about three percent of homeowners in both Broward and Palm Beach counties.

But in Sunrise, Lauderdale Lakes, Margate, and Lauderhill, more than 10 percent of homeowners pay no property tax. In Palm Beach County, at least five percent don’t pay in Palm Springs, Lake Worth and Mangonia Park.

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