Florida Special District Handbook Online:
Accountability Overview

This section summarizes:

  1. Florida's Local Government Financial Reporting System
  2. Important accountability related filings and reports
  3. What will happen when special districts fail to comply with important accountability related filings and reports

Through the passage of the Uniform Special District Accountability Act (Chapter 189, Florida Statutes - Uniform Special District Accountability Act), as amended, the Florida Legislature deemed the following to be the policy of the state:

  • Financial reporting is an essential requirement of law.
  • Special districts exist to serve a public purpose and must be held to certain minimum standards of accountability to keep the public, the appropriate counties and municipalities, and state agencies informed of their status and activities.
  • A function of the Special District Accountability Program (the "Program") within the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is to improve communication and coordination among state agencies, local general-purpose governments, and special districts with respect to required special district reporting and state monitoring.
  • When special districts fail to comply with minimum disclosure requirements, state action will be taken to help noncomplying special districts come into compliance and, when necessary, legal action to enforce compliance.

Local Government Financial Reporting System

Florida has what is known as the "Local Government Financial Reporting System", which helps to provide for the timely, accurate, uniform, and cost-effective accumulation of financial and other information. Special districts, counties, municipalities, and state agencies, including the Program, have vital roles and responsibilities in this system. Members of the Legislature and other appropriate officials rely on the information this system produces to accomplish the following goals:

  • Enhance citizen participation in local government
  • Improve the financial condition of local governments
  • Provide essential government services in an efficient and effective manner
  • Improve decision-making on the part of the Legislature, state agencies, and local government officials on matters relating to local government

Periodically, the Florida Auditor General makes a performance audit of the system. Special districts must cooperate during this process. The audit analyzes the system component by component and as a whole to evaluate its effectiveness in achieving system goals and objectives. It includes a determination of whether special districts are complying with statutorily required financial reporting requirements and makes recommendations to local governments and the Legislature about improving the system and reducing costs.

Important Accountability Filings and Reports

The following filings and reports are so essential to the Local Government Financial Reporting System and for special district monitoring and accountability purposes that when special districts fail to file them, action can be taken to enforce compliance:

Reports and Information That Must Be Filed With State Agencies

Certain state agencies are responsible for reviewing, interpreting, and summarizing financial information for the public, the Legislature and other officials. Therefore, each special district must submit the following reports and information to state agencies, as applicable:

Reports and Information That Must Be Filed With The County or Municipality in Which The Special District is Located

Counties and municipalities must have certain information from special districts to coordinate activities and to comply with their own requirements. Therefore, each special district must submit the following to each county and/or municipality in which it is located:

Information That Must Be Filed With the Special District Accountability Program

Since the Program must properly classify each special district and maintain up-to-date special district information to state and local agencies, each special district must file the following with the Program (for more information on these filings, see Creating Special Districts and Making Changes to Special Districts).

  • Registered agent's name
  • Registered office address
  • Official website address
  • Creation document, as amended
  • From newly created special districts, a written statement referencing the basis for its independent or dependent status
  • Boundary map, as amended
  • An annual special district fee ($175)

Noncompliance Status Reports: What will happen when special districts fail to comply with important accountability filings and reports

At any time, the following agencies may provide a special district noncompliance status report to the Program. The Program makes these reports available to the public electronically (see Special District Noncompliance Status Reports).

The Florida Department of Management Services, Division of Retirement

This report lists all special districts enrolled in state or local government retirement plans and those special districts that are not providing for regularly scheduled actuarial reports and statements of actuarial impact prepared and certified by an enrolled actuary.

The Florida Department of Financial Services

This report lists each special district that is required to submit The Annual Financial Report but failed to do so.

The State Board of Administration of Florida, Division of Bond Finance

This report lists the special districts that did not timely provide the Advance Notice of a Bond Sale and / or the Bond Information Form/Bond Disclosure Form (BF2003 / 2004A and B).

Florida Auditor General

This report lists each special district that failed to submit The Annual Financial Audit Report, but should have submitted one based on its expenditures and revenues as reported to the Florida Department of Financial Services on its Annual Financial Report.  It also includes special districts that may be required to submit the Annual Financial Audit Report but the Auditor General is unable to verify whether the special district meets the financial threshold to file because the special district has not filed an Annual Financial Report.

The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee

This is a follow-up / reconciliation report that often comes after more in-depth analysis of financial reporting. It lists the special districts that did not comply with the above reporting requirements but may not have been on the original lists prepared by the agencies. The report may also include:

  • Special districts that failed to respond to requests from the Florida Auditor General concerning significant items that were omitted from the Annual Financial Audit Report
  • Special districts that failed to respond to requests from the Governor's Office concerning one or more financial emergency conditions
  • Special districts with repeat audit findings that failed to sufficiently respond to the committee
  • Special districts that were reported to be in noncompliance with special district investment requirements and failed to take corrective action

Local General-Purpose Governments (Counties and Municipalities)

At any time, if an independent special district fails to file any report it is required to file with a county or municipality, the County Clerk of the Courts or the municipality designee must notify the special district's registered agent and approve a filing extension of up to 30 days. After that, if the county or municipality determines that an unjustified failure to file the reports has occurred, it may notify the Program, which may proceed with technical assistance.

Technical Assistance

When the Program receives a noncompliance status report, the Program provides technical assistance to help the special district comply with its requirements.

In the case of a special district that did not timely file bond related reports or information, the Program sends a certified letter to the special district that summarizes the requirements, and compels it to take steps to prevent the noncompliance from reoccurring.

For all other reporting requirements, the Program attempts to help the special district comply by mailing a certified letter to the special district's registered agent that includes the following:

  • A description of the required report
  • Statutory submission deadlines
  • A contact telephone number for technical assistance
  • A 60-day extension of time for filing the required report
  • The address where the report must be filed
  • The consequences of failing to comply with the requirement

If a special district is unable to meet the 60-day deadline, the special district must provide written notice to the Program before the expiration of the deadline that provides the following information:

  • The reason the special district is unable to meet the deadline
  • The steps the special district is taking to prevent the noncompliance from reoccurring
  • The estimated date that the special district will file the report with the appropriate agency

The Program forwards these responses to the appropriate agency for consideration in determining whether the special district should be subject to further action:

  • If the written response refers to the Annual Financial Report and / or the Annual Financial Audit Report, the response is forwarded to the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee for its consideration in determining whether the special district should be subject to further action.
  • If the written response refers to public facilities reports, registered agent / office information, regular public meeting schedule, and / or financial information requested by a local general-purpose government, the response is forwarded to the appropriate local general-purpose government or governments for their consideration in determining whether the general oversight review process of special districts should be undertaken.
  • If the written response refers to retirement system reports the response is forwarded to the Florida Department of Management Services for its consideration in determining whether the special district should be subject to further action.

Consequences of Continued Noncompliance

Lack of compliance by an independent special district to one or more counties or municipalities

If, after receiving the technical assistance above, an independent special district does not comply with a reporting requirement to a county or municipality, the county or municipality may initiate the general oversight review process of special districts. In addition, the DEO may declare the special district inactive for dissolution (see Enforcing Compliance).

Lack of compliance by a dependent special district to the county or municipality to which it is dependent

If a dependent special district does not comply with a reporting requirement to the county or municipality to which it is dependent, the county or municipality must take whatever steps it deems necessary to enforce the special district's accountability. Such steps may include, as authorized:

In addition, DEO may declare the special district inactive for dissolution (see Enforcing Compliance).

Lack of compliance by an independent or dependent special district to a state agency

If, after receiving the technical assistance above, a dependent or independent special district does not comply with retirement system reports to the Florida Department of Management Services, then DEO will file a petition for enforcement with the circuit court in and for Leon County. This petition may request the following:

  • Declaratory relief
  • Injunctive relief
  • Other equitable relief, including the appointment of a receiver, and any forfeiture or other remedy provided by law

If, after receiving the technical assistance above, a dependent or independent special district does not comply with one of the following reports to a state agency. . .

. . . the state agency will notify the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee that the special district failed to comply. At that point, the following will happen, depending on how the special district was created:

Special Districts Created by a Special Act

The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee may schedule a public hearing to determine if the special district should be subject to further state action and, if such determination is made, will notify:

  • The President of the Senate
  • The Speaker of the House of Representatives
  • The standing committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives charged with special district oversight as determined by the presiding officers of each respective chamber
  • The legislators who represent a portion of the geographical jurisdiction of the special district
  • DEO, which must provide the technical assistance, if it has not already done so.

The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee may convene another public hearing at the direction of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives (see Oversight of special districts created by special act of the Legislature that failed to file specific required reports or requested information with the appropriate state agency or office)

If the special district remains in noncompliance after the hearing, or if a hearing is not held, the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee may direct the DEO to declare the special district inactive for dissolution (see Dissolving Dependent and Independent Special Districts Through a Declaration of Inactive Status) or initiate enforcement (see Enforcing Compliance).

Special Districts Created by a Local Ordinance

The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee may schedule a public hearing to determine if the special district should be subject to further state action and, if such determination is made, will notify:

  • The chair or equivalent of the county or municipality in which the special district is located
  • DEO, which  must provide the technical assistance, if it has not already done so.

The county or municipality may convene a hearing (see Oversight of special districts created by local ordinance or resolution that failed to file specific required reports or information with the appropriate state agency or office)

If the special district remains in noncompliance after the hearing, or if a hearing is not held, the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee may direct DEO to declare the special district inactive for dissolution (see Dissolving Dependent and Independent Special Districts Through a Declaration of Inactive Status) or initiate enforcement (see Enforcing Compliance).

Special Districts Created by Any Manner Other Than a Special Act or Local Ordinance

The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee may schedule a public hearing to determine if the special district should be subject to further state action and, if such determination is made, will notify:

  • DEO, which must provide the technical assistance, if it has not already done so.

If the special district remains in noncompliance, DEO must declare the special district inactive for dissolution (see Dissolving Dependent and Independent Special Districts Through a Declaration of Inactive Status) or initiate enforcement (see Enforcing Compliance).

Enforcing Compliance

Special districts that continue to remain in noncompliance after receiving technical assistance will face serious consequences. Within 60 days of being notified by the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, DEO must take action as follows:

Declare the Special District Inactive for Dissolution

If a special district is not filing a required report for any reason, including because the special district is no longer in operation (e.g., returned mail, telephone calls from the last registered agent or local governing authority, disconnected telephone lines, etc.), DEO will declare the special district inactive for dissolution (see Dissolving Dependent and Independent Special Districts Through a Declaration of Inactive Status).

Initiate Legal Action

DEO will file a petition for enforcement with the circuit court in and for Leon County. This petition may request the following:

  • Declaratory relief
  • Injunctive relief
  • Other equitable relief, including the appointment of a receiver, and any forfeiture or other remedy provided by law

Venue for all actions is in Leon County. The court will award the prevailing party reasonable attorney's fees and costs unless affirmatively waived by all parties.

Other Accountability Requirements

Each special district should check its statutory authority (if applicable) and charter, to find out if it must comply with additional requirements that this handbook did not cover. For a summary of all special district reporting requirements explained throughout this handbook, see Reporting Requirements By Agency and Agency Contacts.

Contact Someone Who Can Answer Questions About Special District Accountability

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