Any district may provide for the construction or reconstruction of assessable improvements as defined in s. 153.52, and for the levying of special assessments upon benefited property for the payment thereof, under the provisions of this section.
(1) The initial proceeding under this section shall be the passage by the district board of a resolution ordering the construction or reconstruction of such assessable improvements, indicating the location by terminal points and routes and either giving a description of the improvements by its material, nature, character, and size or giving two or more descriptions with the directions that the material, nature, character, and size shall be subsequently determined in conformity with one of such descriptions. Sewer or water improvements need not be continuous and may be in more than one locality or street. The resolution ordering any such improvement may give any short and convenient designation to each improvement ordered thereby, and the property against which assessments are to be made for the cost of such improvement may be designated as an assessment district, followed by a letter or number or name to distinguish it from other assessment districts, after which it shall be sufficient to refer to such improvement and property by such designation in all proceedings and assessments, except in the notices required by this section.
(2)(a) As soon as possible after the passage of such resolution, the engineer for the district shall prepare in duplicate plans and specifications for each improvement ordered thereby and an estimate of the cost thereof. Such cost shall include, in addition to the items of cost as defined in this law, the cost of relaying streets and sidewalks necessarily torn up or damaged and the following items of incidental expenses:
1. Printing and publishing notices and proceedings;
2. Costs of abstracts of title; and
3. Any other expense necessary or proper in conducting the proceedings and work provided for in this section, including the estimated amount of discount, if any, upon the sale of assessment bonds or any other obligations issued hereunder for which such special assessments are to be pledged. If the resolution shall provide alternative descriptions of material, nature, character, and size, such estimate shall include an estimate of the cost of the improvement of each such description.
(b) The engineer shall also prepare in duplicate a tentative apportionment of the estimated total cost of the improvement as between the district and each lot or parcel of land subject to special assessment under the resolution, such apportionment to be made in accordance with the provisions of the resolution and in relation to apportionment of cost provided herein for the preliminary assessment roll. Such tentative apportionment of total estimated cost shall not be held to limit or restrict the duties of the engineer in the preparation of such preliminary assessment roll. One of the duplicates of such plans, specifications, and estimates and such tentative apportionment shall be filed with the district clerk and the other duplicate shall be retained by the engineer in his or her files, all thereof to remain open to public inspection.
(c) For the construction of a new proposed sewerage system or the extension of an existing sewerage system that was not previously approved, the report shall include a study that includes the available information from the Department of Health on the history of onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems currently in use in the area and a comparison of the projected costs to the owner of a typical lot or parcel of connecting to and using the proposed sewerage system versus installing, operating, and properly maintaining an onsite sewage treatment system that is approved by the Department of Health and that provides for the comparable level of environmental and health protection as the proposed central sewerage system; consideration of the local authority’s obligations or reasonably anticipated obligations for water body cleanup and protection under state or federal programs, including requirements for water bodies listed under s. 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, Pub. L. No. 92-500, 33 U.S.C. ss. 1251 et seq.; and other factors deemed relevant by the local authority.
(3) The district clerk upon the filing with him or her of such plans, specifications, estimates, and tentative apportionment of cost shall publish once in a newspaper published in the county and circulating in the district, or posted as provided in s. 153.56 if there be no such newspaper, a notice stating that at a meeting of the district board on a certain day and hour, not earlier than 15 days from such publication or posting, the district board will hear objections of all interested persons to the confirmation of such resolution, which notice shall state in brief and general terms a description of the proposed assessable improvements with the location thereof, and shall also state that plans, specifications, estimates, and tentative apportionment of cost thereof are on file with the district clerk. The district clerk shall keep a record in which shall be inscribed, at the request of any person, firm, or corporation having or claiming to have any interest in any lot or parcel of land, the name and post office address of such person, firm, or corporation, together with a brief description or designation of such lot or parcel; and it shall be the duty of the district clerk to mail a copy of such notice to such person, firm, or corporation at such address, at least 10 days before the time for the hearing as stated in such notice, but the failure of the district clerk to keep such record or so to inscribe any name or address or to mail any such notice shall not constitute a valid objection to holding the hearing as provided in this section or to any other action taken under the authority of this section.
(4) At the time named in such notice, or to which an adjournment may be taken by the district board, the district board shall receive any objections of interested persons and may then or thereafter repeal or confirm such resolution with such amendments, if any, as may be desired by the district board and which do not cause any additional property to be specially assessed.
(5) All objections to any such resolution on the ground that it contains items which cannot be properly assessed against property, or that it is, for any default or defect in the passage or character of the resolution or the plans or specifications or estimate, void or voidable in whole or in part, or that it exceeds the power of the district board, shall be made in writing in person or by attorney, and filed with the district clerk at or before the time or adjourned time of such hearing. Any objections against the making of any assessable improvements not so made shall be considered as waived, and if any objection shall be made and overruled or shall not be sustained, the confirmation of the resolution shall be the final adjudication of the issues presented unless proper steps shall be taken in a court of competent jurisdiction to secure relief within 20 days.
(6)(a) Whenever any resolution providing for the construction or reconstruction of assessable improvements and for the levying of special assessments upon benefited property for the payment thereof shall have been confirmed, as hereinabove provided, or at any time thereafter, the district board may issue assessment bonds payable out of such assessments when collected. Said bonds shall mature not later than 2 years after the last installment in which said special assessments may be paid, as provided in subsection (11), and shall bear interest at not exceeding 7.5 percent per annum. Such assessment bonds shall be executed, shall have such provisions for redemption prior to maturity, shall be sold in the manner and be subject to all of the applicable provisions contained in s. 153.63 for revenue bonds, except as the same are inconsistent with the provisions of this section. The amount of such assessment bonds for any assessable improvement, prior to the confirmation of the preliminary assessment roll provided for in subsection (10), shall not exceed 70 percent of the estimated amount of the cost of such assessable improvements which are to be specially assessed against the land and real estate to be specially benefited thereby, as shown in the estimates of the engineer for the district referred to in subsection (2). The amount of such assessment bonds for any assessable improvement to be issued, after the confirmation of the preliminary assessment roll provided for in subsection (10), including any assessment bonds theretofore issued, shall not exceed the amount of special assessments actually confirmed and levied by the district board as provided in subsection (10).
(b) Such assessment bonds shall be payable from the proceeds of the special assessments levied for the assessable improvement for which such assessment bonds are issued; provided, however, that any district may pledge the full faith and credit of such district for the payment of the principal of and interest on such assessment bonds if the issuance of such assessment bonds shall be approved by the qualified electors who are freeholders residing in said district in the manner provided in the constitution and statutes of Florida.
(7) After the passage of the resolution authorizing the construction or reconstruction of assessable improvements has been confirmed as provided in subsection (4), the district may publish at least once in a newspaper published in the county and circulating in the district, or post in the manner provided in s. 153.56 if there be no such newspaper, a notice calling for sealed bids to be received by the district board on a date not earlier than 15 days from the first publication for the construction of the work, unless in the initial resolution the district board shall have declared its intention to have the work done by district forces without contract. The notice shall refer in general terms to the extent and nature of the improvement or improvements and may identify the same by the short designation indicated in the initial resolution and by reference to the plans and specifications on file. If the initial resolution shall have given two or more alternative descriptions of the assessable improvements as to its material, nature, character, and size, and if the district board shall not have theretofore determined upon a definite description, the notice shall call for bids upon each of such descriptions. Bids may be requested for the work as a whole or for any part thereof separately and bids may be asked for any one or more of such assessable improvements authorized by the same or different resolutions, but any bid covering work upon more than one improvement shall be in such form as to permit a separation of cost as to each improvement. The notice shall require bidders to file with their bids either a certified check drawn upon an incorporated bank or trust company in such amount or percentage of their respective bids, as the district board shall deem advisable, or a bid bond in like amount with corporate surety satisfactory to the district board to ensure the execution of a contract to carry out the work in accordance with such plans and specifications and ensure the filing at the making of such contract, of a bond in the amount of the contract price with corporate surety satisfactory to the district conditioned for the performance of the work in accordance with such contract. The district board shall have the right to reject any or all bids, and if all bids are rejected the district board may readvertise or may determine to do the work by the district forces without contract.
(8) Promptly after the completion of the work, the engineer for the district, who is hereby designated as the official of the district to make the preliminary assessment of benefits from assessable improvements, shall prepare a preliminary assessment roll and file the same with the district clerk which roll shall contain the following:
(a) A description of abutting lots and parcels of land or lands within the district which will benefit from such assessable improvements and the amount of such benefits to each such lot or parcel of land. Such lots and parcels shall include the property of the county and any school district or other political subdivision. There shall also be given the name of the owner of record of each lot or parcel where practicable, and in all cases there shall be given a statement of the number of feet of property so abutting, which number of feet shall be known as the frontage.
(b) The total cost of the improvement and the amount of incidental expense.
(9) The preliminary roll shall be advisory only and shall be subject to the action of the district board as hereinafter provided. Upon the filing with the district clerk of the preliminary assessment roll, the district clerk shall publish at least once in a newspaper published in the county, and circulating in the district, or if there be no such newspaper, post in the manner provided in s. 153.56, a notice stating that at a meeting of the district board to be held on a certain day and hour, not less than 15 days from the date of such publication or posting, which meeting may be a regular, adjourned or special meeting, all interested persons may appear and file written objections to the confirmation of such roll. Such notice shall state the class of the assessable improvements and the location thereof by terminal points and route.
(10) At the time and place stated in such notice, the district board shall meet and receive the objections in writing of all interested persons as stated in such notice. The district board may adjourn the hearing from time to time. After the completion thereof, the district board shall either annul or sustain or modify in whole or in part the preliminary assessment as indicated on such roll, either by confirming the preliminary assessment against any or all lots or parcels described therein or by canceling, increasing, or reducing the same, according to the special benefits which the district board decided each such lot or parcel has received or will receive on account of such improvement. If any property which may be chargeable under this section shall have been omitted from the preliminary roll or if the preliminary assessment shall not have been made against it, the board may place on such roll an apportionment to such property. The district board shall not confirm any assessment in excess of the special benefits to the property assessed, and the assessments so confirmed shall be in proportion to the special benefits. Forthwith after such confirmation, such assessment roll shall be delivered to the district clerk. The assessment so made shall be final and conclusive as to each lot or parcel assessed unless proper steps be taken within 30 days in a court of competent jurisdiction to secure relief. If the assessment against any property shall be sustained or reduced or abated by the court, the district clerk shall note that fact on the assessment roll opposite the description of the property affected thereby. The amount of the special assessment against any lot or parcel which may be reduced or abated by the court, unless the assessment upon the entire district be reduced or abated, or the amount by which such assessment is so reduced, may by resolution of the district board be made chargeable against the district at large; or, at the discretion of the district board, a new assessment roll may be prepared and confirmed in the manner hereinabove provided for the preparation and confirmation of the original assessment roll.
(11)(a) Any assessment may be paid at the office of the district clerk within 60 days after the confirmation thereof, without interest. Thereafter all assessments shall be payable in equal installments, with interest at not exceeding 8 percent per year, or, if bonds are issued pursuant to this chapter, at a rate not to exceed 1 percent above the rate of interest at which the improvement bonds authorized pursuant to this chapter and used for improvements are sold, from the expiration of said 60 days in each of the succeeding number of years which the district board shall determine by resolution, not exceeding 20; however, the district board may provide that any assessment may be paid at any time before due, together with interest accrued thereon to the date of payment, if such prior payment shall be permitted by the proceedings authorizing any assessment bonds or other obligations for the payment of which such special assessments have been pledged.
(b) All such special assessments shall be collected by the tax collector of the county in which the district is located at the same time as the ad valorem taxes of the district and general county taxes are collected by the tax collector of such county, and the district shall certify to the county tax collector in each year a list of all such special assessments and a description of and name of the owners of the properties against which such special assessments have been levied and the amounts due thereon in such year, and interest thereon, and any deficiencies for prior years.
(c) 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 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 collectible 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 assessments as a lien for mortgages is or may be foreclosed under the laws of the state; provided that 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.
(d) Nevertheless, if prior to any sale of the property under decree of foreclosure in such proceedings, payment be made of the installment or installments which are shown to be due under the provisions of the resolution passed pursuant to subsection (10), and by this subsection and all costs including interest and attorney’s fee, such payment shall have the effect of restoring the remaining installments to their original maturities as provided by the resolution passed pursuant to this subsection and the proceedings shall be dismissed.
(e) It shall be the duty of the district to enforce the prompt collection of assessment by the means herein provided, and such duty may be enforced at the suit of any holder of bonds issued under this law in a court of competent jurisdiction by mandamus or other appropriate proceedings or action.
(f) Not later than 30 days after the annual installments are due and payable, it shall be the duty of the district board to direct the attorney or attorneys whom the district board shall then designate, to institute action within 2 months after such direction to enforce the collection of all special assessments for assessable improvements made under this section and 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.
(g) It shall be 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 shall deem such joinder 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 same shall be collectible as a part of or in addition to the costs of the action.
(h) 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 a district may be sold or otherwise disposed of, the proceeds of such disposition to be placed in the fund provided by subsection (1); provided, however, that 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 shall have been published in a newspaper published in the county and circulating in the district, or posted in the manner provided in s. 153.56 if there be no such newspaper, at least 20 days prior to such disposition.
(12) All assessments and charges made under the provisions of this section for the payment of all or any part of the cost of any assessable improvements for which assessment bonds shall have been issued under the provisions of this law, or which have been pledged as additional security for any other bonds or obligations issued under this law, shall be used only for the payment of principal of or interest on such assessment bonds or other bonds or obligations.
(13) The county in which the district is located and each school district and other political subdivision wholly or partly within the district shall possess the same power and be subject to the same duties and liabilities in respect of assessment under this section affecting the real estate of such county, school district, or other political subdivision which private owners of real estate possess or are subject hereunder; and such real estate of any such county, school district, and political subdivision shall be subject to liens for said assessments in all cases where the same property would be subject to such liens had it at the time the lien attached been owned by a private owner.
(14) If any special assessment made under the provisions of this chapter to defray the whole or any part of the expense of any such improvement shall be deemed by the district board to be inadequate to meet the obligation owed to bondholders, the district board may adjust the duration of and the interest penalty on installment payments of the assessment so that payments of special assessments shall be sufficient to satisfy the contractual obligation owed by the district to bondholders. However, such adjustment shall not have the effect of increasing the special assessment of any property, including the effect of increasing the amount of assessment of any property in proportion to the amount of benefits conferred on that property, nor shall such adjustment increase the interest rate or the installment payment period beyond the interest rate and payment period set forth in paragraph (11)(a). Further, the district board, in adjusting the interest rates and the period of payment of assessments, shall follow the provisions of this section providing for notice and hearing to interested persons and providing for passage of resolutions establishing special assessments.