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Special districts serve a necessary and useful purpose by providing services to residents, businesses and property. They generate billions in revenue for Florida's economy, create private-sector jobs and have a substantial impact on the lives of every Floridian. Special districts are held accountable through Chapter 189, Florida Statutes - the Uniform Special District Accountability Act (Act). This Act requires special districts to register with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and report financial and other activities to the public, the appropriate local general-purpose governments and state agencies. Failure of a special district to comply with the Act's minimum disclosure requirements may result in action against the special district. As the administrator of the Act and an important component of the Local Government Financial Reporting System, DEO is charged with the following responsibilities through its Special District Accountability Program.

Program's Responsibilities

Maintaining the Official List of Special Districts

The Act, along with Chapter 73C-24, Florida Administrative Code - Special District Accountability Program, requires each special district to maintain specific information with the program. The program publishes information about special districts through the Official List of Special Districts Online (official list). The Florida Legislature, state agencies and local government officials depend on this information to monitor special districts, coordinate activities, collect and compile financial and other information and make informed policy decisions. As an example, the Florida Department of Financial Services uses the official list to verify that all active special districts disclose their annual revenues, expenditures and debt by filing the Annual Financial Report. The Florida Auditor General uses the official list along with the financial information from the Florida Department of Financial Services to ensure that all special districts meeting the financial threshold are providing for a financial audit and filing the Annual Financial Audit Report with the Florida Auditor General. For more information about the users and purposes of the official list, please see About the Official List of Special Districts Online – Purposes

The official list allows users to access data through summary reports and, by selecting variables of interest, customize reports. Available information includes the special district's official name, its registered agent and registered office, its independent or dependent status, its special purpose, the county or counties in which it has territory and its official web address. For a complete list of the information available, please see About the Official List of Special Districts Online – Data Categories.

The program ensures that the dependent and independent status of each special district is correct. If the status of a special district on the official list is inconsistent with the status submitted by the special district, the special district may request DEO to issue a declaratory statement setting forth the requirements necessary to resolve the inconsistency. If necessary, upon issuance of a declaratory statement by DEO that is not appealed pursuant to Chapter 120, Florida Statutes - Administrative Procedure Act, the governing body of the special district must apply to the entity that originally established the special district for an amendment to its charter correcting the specified defects in its original charter.

The program declares special districts inactive when directed by the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee or when required by the Act (see Dissolving Dependent and Independent Special Districts Through a Declaration of Inactive Status) and removes those special districts from the official list and lists them separately.

If an entity is attempting to file an Annual Financial Report with the Florida Department of Financial Services and / or filing an Annual Financial Audit Report with the Florida Auditor General and identifying itself as a special district, but is not listed as a special district on the official list, the program must determine whether the entity is a special district. If so, the program notifies the entity that it must register with the program as a special district. The Florida Auditor General may also refer entities to the program for further research if the entity is associated with a statutory authority that is already well established with special districts and / or has a name or special-purpose already well established with special districts.

Since the program continuously collects, classifies and maintains constantly changing information about Florida's special districts and is in direct contact with special district personnel, the program is often the first to learn about changes that other state agencies need to know about, sometimes very quickly. The program works closely with state agencies to make sure vital information is timely provided to the appropriate parties.

Providing Technical Advisory Assistance to Special Districts

The program provides technical advisory assistance to special districts regarding the requirements of the Act, primarily through telephone calls and email correspondences. When appropriate, the program provides referrals to other agencies (see Special District Resources and Contacts). The program may contract with a qualified third-party vendor to provide education programs for all newly elected or appointed members of special district governing bodies, such as the code of ethics for public officers and employees, public meeting and public records requirements, public finance and parliamentary procedure.

The program publishes and continuously updates the Florida Special District Handbook Online to help special districts understand and comply with the requirements of the Act. Topics include special district basics, such as definitions and status distinctions, how to create, modify and dissolve special districts, general operating procedures and reporting requirements. Included is the evaluation and appraisal notification schedule for public facilities reporting to the county or municipality in which the special district is located (see The Public Facilities Report).

Helping to Ensure the Accountability of Special Districts to State and Local Governments

The program has a series of duties relating to the accountability of special districts to state and local governments. When a special district fails to comply with certain reporting and filing requirements, the state and local agency files a noncompliance status report with the program for posting on the program's website (see Special District Noncompliance Status Reports). Next, the program helps the agency collect the delinquent report from the special district by mailing a certified technical assistance letter to the special district explaining the requirement in detail and providing 60 days to comply (see Accountability Overview - Technical Assistance). If the special district remains noncompliant, the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee may request the program to initiate enforcement proceedings through the circuit court or declare the special district inactive for dissolution (see Noncompliance Status Reports and Follow-up Action).

Collecting an Annual State Fee to Fund the Program

The program does not receive general revenue funding. Instead, the Act requires the program to establish a fee schedule by rule (see Chapter 73C-24, Florida Administrative Code - Special District Accountability Program) for purposes of collecting an annual state fee from each special district to cover the costs of administering the Act. This fee schedule corresponds with the fiscal year that most special districts must use (October 1 through September 30).

Each year around October 1, the program mails the "Special District Fee Invoice and Update Form" (form) to each special district. For most special districts, the annual state fee is $175. A newly created special district pays a prorated state fee for its first fiscal year depending upon the quarter in which it was created:

  • If created during the first quarter (October 1 through December 31) the fee is $150.
  • If created during the second quarter (January 1 through March 31) the fee is $125.
  • If created during the third quarter (April 1 through June 30) the fee is $100.
  • If created during the fourth quarter (July 1 through September 30) the fee is $75.

A special district meeting all three of the following conditions is not required to pay an annual state fee if its registered agent completes the section on the form certifying that all three of the following statements are true. Upon verification, the program will approve the zero fee.

  • The special district and its Certified Public Accountant determined the special district is not a component unit of a local general-purpose government.
  • The special district has complied with the reporting requirements of the Florida Department of Financial Services (see the Annual Financial Report).
  • Through the Annual Financial Report, the special district reported $3,000 or less in annual revenues for the most recent fiscal year in which complete annual data is available. A newly created special district that has not yet filed an Annual Financial Report must attach an income statement verifying $3,000 or less in revenues for the current fiscal year.

To keep the official list up to date, the form also serves as a method to update the information on file with the program. Each special district must review and if necessary update the information and return the form to the program along with payment by the due date, which is approximately 60 days after the invoice date.

Any special district not complying with state fee requirements by the due date will be subject to fines up to $50 (two late notices with an additional $25 late fee for each notice).

Any special district not paying the state fee and fine will be reported to the State of Florida's contracted debt collection agency. This will result in additional fees and a report of collection activities to the credit bureaus.

Contact Someone Who Can Answer Questions About the Special District Accountability Program

Additional Information - Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Special District Accountability Program Contact

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