The looming threat posed by Hurricane Dorian in the first few days of September created scheduling difficulties for local governments and other taxing authorities as they worked to complete their budgets for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
As Dorian approached Florida and appeared to be aiming for the Sunshine State’s east coast, several taxing agencies had to cancel and reschedule their public hearings. One of the first affected by Dorian was the Volusia County Council, which was supposed to convene its first public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3.
The date of the County Council’s first public hearing on its spending and taxation has been reset for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17 — again, so as not to conflict with the hearing dates of other taxing jurisdictions. The council’s second and final public hearing on its fiscal 2019-20 actions will be a week later, at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24. Both of these hearings will be held in the County Council Chambers of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center, 123 W. Indiana Ave. in DeLand.
The Volusia County School Board had set its final public hearing on its new budget and millage for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, in the School District Administrative Complex, 200 N. Clara Ave. in Deland, but the date has been pushed back to Tuesday, Sept. 24.
In addition, the DeBary City Council will conduct its first public hearing on its budget and ad valorem tax rate at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, at DeBary City Hall, 16 Colomba Road.
On that date, as well, the Orange City Council and the DeLand City Commission will convene their first budget hearings. The Orange City Council’s meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the City Hall Annex, 201 N. Holly Ave., and the DeLand City Commission assembles at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, at City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave.
The Lake Helen City Commission was supposed to host its first public hearing on its proposed budget and property-tax rate Thursday, Sept. 5, but that hearing has been rescheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, at City Hall, 327 S. Lakeview Drive.
Each of the meetings on budget and tax matters is open to the public.
By state law, and consistent with the TRIM notices mailed to property owners in mid-August, each of the taxing agencies claiming jurisdiction over a parcel of land, must convene public hearings on its prospective spending and taxation actions.
The TRIM — an acronym standing for Truth in Millage — notices list the taxing authorities and the times, dates and locations of the public hearings, to give property owners and others an opportunity to speak out for or against the budgets and property taxes, or to offer suggestions or comments on the planned outlays.
Following the hearings, the deciding body votes on the resolutions setting the tax rates and adopting the new budgets. There are usually two public hearings, and the deciding board, commission, council or panel may change its budget between the first and second meetings, or even before the final vote on its budget and ad valorem levy takes place.
Again, by state law, the tax rate may be lowered before a taxing authority’s final vote, but it may not be raised — unless the body agrees to readvertise the late-coming tax increase and send a special notice to each property owner affected by the unexpected change.
Usually, the budget and taxation hearings take place during September, in anticipation of the beginning of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.
In addition, local governments within a county are supposed to set hearing times and dates that do not conflict with those of other jurisdictions with the power to tax a particular piece of property. This is to enable property owners to attend as many public hearings as possible on tax decisions affecting their land or buildings, without having to sacrifice one meeting to attend another scheduled for the same time.