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What is a Special District?

Special Districts are forms of local government created by the State, County, and Municipalities in order to provide a specific service or services to a defined area. Special Districts are often referred to as special-purpose governments, since the law authorizes them to provide only those services specifically defined in their enabling legislation. Conversely, the State, County and Municipal governments are called general-purpose local governments and are not specifically limited in what services they can provide to their residents.

The reason for Special District creation is to provide the permanent administrative structure for financing and maintaining services or infrastructure traditionally provided by general-purpose governments when these governments are unwilling or unable to provide the service or capital improvement. Consequently, Special Taxing Districts are frequently substituting and/or complementing the capabilities of general-purpose governments. For instance, Special Districts provide water management in multi-county jurisdictions, public infrastructure in new developments, streetlights to neighborhoods without them and fire protection for Cities and Counties.


How is a Special District Organized?

Board of Supervisors

The Board of Supervisors serves as the governing body of the District and sets public policies implemented by staff. The Board can adopt administrative rules and regulations with respect to any projects of the District, and enforce penalties for violation of such rules and regulations. They can levy taxes, special assessments, fees and user charges for use of District facilities. The Board may also adopt resolutions, which may be necessary to conduct District business. The Board of Supervisors shall also employ and fix the compensation of the District Manager, designate a person who is a resident of the State as Treasurer of the District, and select a depository for its funds.

Initially, Board members are designated and appointed in the formative petition and the rule establishing the District. Thereafter, the members are elected on an at-large basis by the owners of property within the District. Each landowner is entitled to cast one vote per acre of land owned by him or her and located within the District for each person to be elected. A fraction of an acre shall be treated as one acre, entitling the landowner to one vote with respect thereto. A qualified elector is a registered voter who is a resident of the District and the State and a citizen of the United States.

The board may not exercise the ad valorem taxing power authorized by the Special Act until such time as all members of the board are qualified electors who are elected by qualified electors of the district.

Regardless of whether the district has proposed to levy ad valorem taxes, board member shall begin being elected by qualified electors of the district as the district becomes populate with qualified electors. The transition shall occur following a trigger of the qualified elector population thresholds set forth below, shall be as follows:

  • Once 9,000 qualified electors reside within the district, one governing board member shall be a person who is a qualified elector of the district and who was elected by the qualified electors, and four governing board member shall be persons who were elected by the landowners.
     
  • Once 18,000 qualified electors reside within the district, two governing board members shall be persons who are qualified electors of the district and who were elected by the qualified electors, and three governing board member shall be persons who were elected by the landowners.
     
  • Once 27,000 qualified electors reside within the district, three governing board members shall be persons who are qualified electors of the district and who were elected by the qualified electors, and two governing board member shall be persons who were elected by the landowners.
     
  • Once 36,000 qualified electors reside within the district, four governing board members shall be persons who are qualified electors of the district and who were elected by the qualified electors, and one governing board member shall be a person who was elected by the landowners.
     
  • Once 40,500 qualified electors reside within the district, all five governing board members shall be persons who are qualified electors of the district and who were elected by the qualified electors. In the event less than 40,500 qualified electors reside within the district, but the development of the district has completed the construction of 22,000 residential units or more, all five governing board member shall be persons who were elected by the qualified electors.

District Administration

The District Manager's responsibilities include:

  1. Preparation and submittal of a proposed operations and maintenance budgets for Board review and action.
  2. Preparation of contract specifications for District operations.
  3. File all required forms and documents with state and local agencies.
  4. Attend all Board of Supervisor meetings – implement the policies of the Board.
  5. Additional duties as directed by the Board.

The District Engineer's responsibilities include:

  1. Preparation and supervision of construction projects within the Special District.
  2. Inspection and reporting on the District facilities.
  3. Assist in the preparation of the annual maintenance budget.
  4. Attend all Board of Supervisor meetings – implement the policies of the Board.
  5. Additional duties as directed by the Board.

The District Counsel's responsibilities include:

  1. Preparation and review of agreements and other Special District documents.
  2. Ensuring all provisions of the Florida Statutes are followed.
  3. Attend all Board of Supervisor meetings – implement the policies of the Board.
  4. Additional duties as directed by the Board.

Does the "Sunshine Law" apply to Special Districts?

Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law, commonly referred to as the Sunshine Law, provides a right of access to governmental proceedings at both the State and local levels. The law is equally applicable to elected and appointed Boards and has been applied to any gathering of two or more members of the same Board to discuss some matter which will foreseeably come before that Board for action. The Sunshine Law establishes a basic right of access to most meetings of Boards, commissions and other governing bodies of state and local governmental agencies or authorities to prevent members of a government Board from secretly dealing with public business.


Does the public have the right to participate?

Public agencies are allowed to adopt reasonable rules and regulations which ensure the orderly conduct of a public meeting and which require orderly behavior on the part of the public attending. This includes limiting the amount of time an individual can speak and, when a large number of people attend and wish to speak, requesting that a representative of each side of the issue speak rather than everyone present.


What kind of notice of the meeting must be given?

Reasonable public notice is required for all meetings subject to the Sunshine Law. The type of notice which must be given depends on the facts of the situation and the Board involved. In some instances, posting of the notice in an area set aside for that purpose may be sufficient; in others, publication in a local newspaper may be necessary. In either case an agency must give notice at such time and in such a manner as will enable the media and the general public to attend the meeting.

There are three basic requirements of Chapter 286.011, Florida Statutes:

  1. Meetings of public Boards or commissions must be open to the public;
  2. Reasonable notice of such meetings must be given; and
  3. Minutes of the meetings must be taken.

Can I see the District’s records?

Public Records Law states:

Every person who has custody of a public record shall permit the record to be inspected and examined by any person desiring to do so, at any reasonable time, under reasonable conditions, and under supervision by the custodian of the public record or the custodian’s designee. The custodian shall furnish a copy or a certified copy of the record upon payment of the fee prescribed by law; and for all other copies, upon payment of the actual cost of duplication of the record.

Under Florida law, e-mail addresses are public records. If you do not want your e-mail address released in response to a public-records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead, contact this office by phone or in writing.