Isn't the HO exemptions really just a smokescreen, a trick to make homeowners think that the legislature feels their pain and is trying to do something about it? Why, yes, I believe it is.
See, there is more than one variable that determines how much tax you actually pay on your home. Most obvious is the taxable value. If you have a $200,000 home and 50% is exempt, you feel pretty special, thinking how you avoided half your tax bite right off the bat. Trouble is, the levy by the various taxing districts varies so that you end up paying whatever tax they need, regardless of the taxable value of your home.
Have a look at the chart below, which is the tax history for my home. (Sorry, you'll have to click to embiggen.) Anyway, note that the small gray "taxes paid" column barely changes, even though the taxable value of the house drops in half.
If there was no homeowner's exemption, I'd still pay the same. I mean, really, take a look. When my property was twice its value (but half was exempt due to the HO exemption) I paid around $900. Property plummets in value, still paying around $900.
So the next time your glorious legislator brags about shielding homeowners from property tax via the HO exemption, just smile to yourself, 'cause you know that he or she is either lying, uninformed, or stupid. The HO exemption is simply just a feel-good trick they play on homeowners to pretend that they are trying to help them manage tax liability.