(1) A district may provide for the levy of non-ad valorem assessments under this act on the lands and real estate benefited by the exercise of the powers authorized by this act, or any part thereof, for all or any part of the cost thereof. Non-ad valorem assessments may be levied only on benefited real property at a rate of assessment based on the special benefit accruing to such property from such services or improvements. The district may use any assessment apportionment methodology that meets fair apportionment standards.
(2) The board may determine to exercise any power authorized by this act and defray the whole or any part of the expense thereof by non-ad valorem assessments. A district shall adopt a non-ad valorem assessment roll pursuant to the procedures contained in this section or in s. 197.3632 if:
(a) The non-ad valorem assessment is levied for the first time;
(b) The non-ad valorem assessment is increased beyond the maximum rate authorized by general law or special act at the time of initial imposition as defined in s. 191.009;
(c) The district’s boundaries have changed, unless all newly affected property owners have provided written consent for such assessment to the board; or
(d) There is a change in the purpose for such assessment or in the use of the revenue generated by such assessment.
The board shall so declare by resolution stating the nature of the proposed service, the location of any capital facilities, personnel, and equipment needed to provide the service, and any other projected expense of providing the service or improvement, and the part or portion of the expense thereof to be paid by non-ad valorem assessments, the manner in which the assessments shall be made, when the assessments are to be paid, and what part, if any, shall be apportioned to be paid from other revenues or funds of the district. The resolution shall also designate the lands upon which the non-ad valorem assessments shall be levied. Such lands may be designated by an assessment plat. The resolution shall also state the total estimated costs of the service or improvement. The estimated cost may include the cost of operations, including personnel, equipment, construction or reconstruction, the cost of all labor and materials, the cost of all lands, property, rights, easements, and franchises acquired, financing charges, interest prior to and during construction and for 1 year after completion of construction, discount on the sale of assessment bonds, cost of plans and specifications, surveys of estimates of costs and of revenues, cost of engineering and legal services, and all other expenses necessary or incident to determining the feasibility or practicability of the construction or reconstruction, administrative expense, and such other expense as may be necessary or incident to the financing authorized by this act.
(3) At the time of the adoption of the resolution provided for in subsection (2), there shall be on file at the district’s offices an assessment plat showing the area to be assessed, with construction and operational plans and specifications, and an estimate of the cost of the proposed service or improvement, which assessment plat, plans, and specifications and estimate shall be open to the inspection of the public.
(4) Upon adoption of the resolution provided for in subsection (2) or completion of the preliminary assessment roll provided for in subsection (5), whichever is later, the board shall publish notice of the resolution once in a newspaper of general circulation in each county in which the district is located. The notice shall state in brief and general terms a description of the proposed service or improvements and that the plans, specifications, and estimates are available to the public at the district’s offices. The notice shall also state the date and time of the hearing to hear objections provided for in subsection (7), which hearing shall be no earlier than 15 days after publication of the notice. The publication shall be verified by the affidavit of the publisher and filed with the secretary to the board.
(5) Upon the adoption of the resolution provided for in subsection (2), the board shall cause to be made a preliminary assessment roll in accordance with the method of assessment provided for in the resolution. The assessment roll shall show the lots and lands assessed and the amount of the benefit to and the assessment against each lot or parcel of land, and, if the assessment is to be paid in installments, the number of annual installments in which the assessment is divided shall also be entered and shown upon the assessment roll.
(6) Upon the completion of the preliminary assessment roll, the board shall by resolution fix a time and place at which the owners of the property to be assessed or any other persons interested therein may appear before the board and be heard as to the advisability of providing the service or making the improvements, as to the cost thereof, as to the manner of payment therefor, and as to the amount thereof to be assessed against each property so improved. Ten days’ notice in writing of the time and place shall be given to the property owners. The notice shall include the amount of the assessment and shall be served by mailing a copy to each of the property owners at his or her last known address, the names and addresses of the property owners to be obtained from the records of the property appraiser, and proof of such mailing to be made by the affidavit of the secretary.
(7) At the time and place named in the notice provided for in subsection (4), the board shall meet and hear testimony from affected property owners as to the advisability of providing the service or making the improvements and funding them with non-ad valorem assessments on property. Following the testimony, the board shall make a final decision on whether to levy the non-ad valorem assessments, adjusting assessments as may be warranted by information received at or prior to the hearing. If any property which may be chargeable under this section has been omitted from the preliminary roll or if the prima facie assessment has not been made against it, the board may place on the roll an apportionment to that property. The owners of any property so added to the assessment roll shall be mailed a copy of the notice provided for in subsection (6), and granted 15 days from the date of mailing to file any objections with the board. When so approved by resolution of the board, a final assessment roll shall be filed with the vice chair of the board, and the assessments shall stand confirmed and remain legal, valid, and binding first liens upon the property against which the assessments are made until paid. The assessment so made shall be final and conclusive as to each lot or parcel assessed unless proper steps are taken within 30 days after the filing of the final assessment roll in a court of competent jurisdiction to secure relief. If the assessment against any property is sustained or reduced or abated by the court, the vice chair shall note that fact on the assessment roll opposite the description of the property affected and notify the county property appraiser and the tax collector in writing. The amount of the non-ad valorem assessment against any lot or parcel which may be abated by the court, unless the assessment upon the entire district is abated, or the amount by which the assessment is so reduced, may by resolution of the board be made chargeable against the district at large, or, at the discretion of the board, a new assessment roll may be prepared and confirmed in the manner provided in this section for the preparation and confirmation of the original assessment roll. The board may by resolution grant a discount equal to all or a part of the payee’s proportionate share of the cost of a capital project consisting of bond financing costs, such as capitalized interest, funded reserves, and bond discount included in the estimated cost of the project, upon payment in full of any assessment during the period prior to the time the financing costs are incurred as may be specified by the board.
(8) The non-ad valorem assessments:
(a) Shall be payable at the time and in the manner stipulated in the resolution providing for the improvement or services.
(b) Shall remain liens, coequal with the lien of all state, county, district, and municipal taxes, superior in dignity to all other liens, titles, and claims, until paid.
(c) Shall bear interest as provided by s. 170.09 or, if bonds have been issued, at a rate not to exceed 1 percent above the rate of interest at which the bonds authorized pursuant to this act and used for a capital improvement are sold, from the date of the acceptance of the improvement.
(d) May, by resolution and only for capital outlay projects, be made payable in equal installments over a period not to exceed 20 years, to which, if not paid when due, there shall be added a penalty at the rate of 1 percent per month, until paid.
However, the assessments may be paid without interest at any time within 30 days after the improvement is completed and a resolution accepting the same has been adopted by the board.
(9) The non-ad valorem assessments approved by the board may be levied, assessed, and collected pursuant to ss. 197.363-197.3635. The collection and enforcement of the non-ad valorem assessment levied by the district shall be at the same time and in like manner as county taxes.
(10) All assessments shall constitute a lien upon the property so assessed from the date of confirmation of the resolution ordering the improvement of the same nature and to the same extent as the lien for general county, municipal, or district taxes falling due in the same year or years in which such assessments or installments thereof fall due, and any assessment or installment not paid when due shall be collected with such interest and with a reasonable attorney’s fee and costs, but without penalties, by the district by proceedings in a court of equity to foreclose the lien of assessment as a lien for mortgages is or may be foreclosed under the laws of the state, provided any such proceedings to foreclose shall embrace all installments of principal remaining unpaid with accrued interest thereon, which installments shall, by virtue of the institution of such proceedings immediately become due and payable. If, prior to any sale of the property under decree of foreclosure in such proceedings, payment is made of the installment or installments which are shown to be due under the provisions of the resolution passed pursuant to subsection (9) and this subsection, and all costs including attorney’s fees, the payment shall have the effect of restoring the remaining installments to their original maturities and the proceedings shall be dismissed. The district shall enforce the prompt collection of assessments by the means provided in this section and this duty may be enforced at the suit of any holder of bonds issued under this act in a court of competent jurisdiction by mandamus or other appropriate proceedings or action. Not later than 30 days after annual installments are due and payable, the board shall direct the attorney or attorneys whom the board shall designate to institute actions within 3 months after such direction to enforce the collection of all non-ad valorem assessments remaining due and unpaid at the time of such direction. Such action shall be prosecuted in the manner and under the conditions in and under which mortgages are foreclosed under the laws of the state. It is lawful to join in one action the collection of assessments against any or all property assessed by virtue of the same assessment roll unless the court deems such joiner prejudicial to the interest of any defendant. The court shall allow a reasonable attorney’s fee for the attorney or attorneys of the district, and the fee shall be collectible as a part of or in addition to the costs of the action. At the sale pursuant to decree in any such action, the district may be a purchaser to the same extent as an individual person or corporation, except that the part of the purchase price represented by the assessments sued upon and the interest thereon need not be paid in cash. Property so acquired by the district may be sold or otherwise disposed of, the proceeds of such disposition to be placed in the fund provided for by subsection (11), provided no sale or other disposition thereof shall be made unless the notice calling for bids therefor to be received at a stated time and place was published in a newspaper of general circulation in the district once in each of 4 successive weeks prior to such disposition.
(11) All assessments and charges made under the provisions of this section for the payment of all or any part of the cost of any improvements for which assessment bonds have been issued under the provisions of this act are hereby pledged to the payment of the principal of and the interest on the assessment bonds and shall, when collected, be placed in a separate fund, properly designated, which fund shall be used for no other purpose than the payment of such principal and interest.