. . . From Attorney General Charlie Crist and the Florida Department of Revenue
Local Elected Officials Given Flexibility in Scheduling Tax, Budget Hearings, Accepting Property Tax Petitions
TALLAHASSEE - Governor Jeb Bush and the state's emergency-management authorities have issued orders allowing city and county commissions, school boards, and special taxing districts additional flexibility to respond to weather-related emergencies when scheduling public hearings on property-tax millage rates and proposed budgets.
"Local elected officials are working around the clock, doing all they can in response to hurricanes Charley and Frances and preparing for Hurricane Ivan." said Governor Bush. "These directives provide necessary flexibility so that local governments can get on with the job of providing service to citizens in this challenging period."
Craig Fugate, Director of the Division of Emergency Management and the State Coordinating Officer designated by Governor Bush to respond to recent hurricane-related emergencies, issued a supplementary order Thursday that provided legal guidance for local governments currently finalizing their 2004-2005 budgets and 2005 property-tax rates.
- Allow local governments to reschedule tentative or final property-tax millage or budget hearings if the hearings could not be held at the time and place indicated on the notices of proposed property taxes mailed to taxpayers. Rescheduled meetings must be advertised in local newspapers of general paid circulation at least two days and not more than five days before the hearing. Notices at least 8 by 11 inches giving the time and place of the hearings also shall be posted on the door of the hearing place.
- Allow local Value Adjustment Boards additional flexibility in accepting taxpayers' petitions protesting property tax assessments.
- Suspend for 60 days a legal requirement prohibiting county commissions and school districts serving the same county from holding tentative or final millage and budget hearings on the same day. Under the emergency directive, county commissions and school districts serving the same county could hold tentative or final millage and budget hearings on the same day but at different times on that day. Other taxing authorities in that county will schedule hearings so as not to conflict with the county commission or school district hearings. To the extent practicable, all taxing authorities shall schedule hearings at a time that will ensure that the public can attend.
- Suspend for 60 days certain legal requirements regarding the timing of final millage and budget hearings. Under the emergency directive, a local government can convene a final millage and budget hearing at a scheduled time and place and then recess the hearing, if the hurricane-related emergency makes it necessary to reconvene and continue the hearing. The recessed hearing shall be reconvened in the next seven days, and notices shall be prominently posted to ensure that taxpayers are informed of the scheduled place, time, and date at which the hearing will reconvene.
- Allow local governments to proceed if weather-related conditions have forced the cancellation of a scheduled millage and budget hearing prior to the date of the emergency directive. This covers local governments that prominently posted a notice of the rescheduled hearing and also have made every reasonable effort to inform taxpayers of the rescheduled hearing.
- Allow property appraisers who have sent out late notices of millage and budget hearings involving multi-county taxing authorities to advertise rescheduled hearings in certain circumstances in which other property appraisers have mailed timely notices for the rescheduled hearing. Multi-county taxing authorities include water management districts and certain other districts.
For more information, visit the Department of Revenue Web site at www.myflorida.com/dor/