Title: Under the Florida COnstitution: A History of Water Management District Ad Valorem Taxing Authority
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/WL00001332/00001
 Material Information
Title: Under the Florida COnstitution: A History of Water Management District Ad Valorem Taxing Authority
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publisher: NWFWMD
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida
Abstract: Under the Florida COnstitution: A History of Water Management District Ad Valorem Taxing Authority, April 1986, by L.M. Buddy Blain
General Note: Box 8, Folder 3 ( Vail Conference, 1993 - 1993 ), Item 46
Funding: Digitized by the Legal Technology Institute in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida.
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Bibliographic ID: WL00001332
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Holding Location: Levin College of Law, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

Center insert article for The Pump Northwest Florida WMD April 1986

Under the Florida Constitution:
A History of Water Management District
Ad Valorem Taxing Authority
A Guest Article By: L.M. "Buddy" Blain, Blain & Cone, P.A.
Tampa, Florida

L.M. "Buddy" Blain

Florida's five water management districts are uni-
que among special districts within the state
because of their ad valorem taxing power. Many
special districts created prior to 1968 have authority
to levy ad valorem taxes but, with the exception of
water management districts, all other special
districts may only levy ad valorem taxes if they have
prior voter approval. Water management districts
have been granted express constitutional authority
to levy ad valorem taxes within certain millage
limits, without referendums.
Today's five water management districts were
preceded by Central and Southern Florida Flood
Control District-now known as the South Florida
Water Management District. Created in 1949 and
covering 18 counties, it was given authority to tax up
to 1.0 mill. Southwest Florida Water Management
District, created in 1961 and covering 15 counties,
had authority to levy up to 1.3 mills (0.3 mill for
S district purposes, and 1.0 mill for basin purposes).
Ad valorem tax revenues were the primary source of
funds for operating purposes for both districts, and
the state appropriated funds for the local share of
federal public works projects and for much of the
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In 1968, the Florida Constitution was revised. One
change provided that the legislature could no longer
authorize special districts to levy ad valorem taxes
without prior voter approval. However, another provi-
sion stated that this prohibition did not affect the ad
valorem taxing powers of special districts existing
when the constitutional revision became effective,
thus allowing Southwest and Central and Southern
Florida to continue their taxing powers.
When the legislature enacted the Water
Resources Act of 1972, it mandated that five water
management districts should be created which
would include within their boundaries all territory of
the state, and directed the Department of Natural
Resources to study possible district divisions and
present a recommendation to the 1973 legislature. In
1973, in order to preserve the ad valorem taxing
authority of the two existing districts, the legislature
made an interim division of the state into six
districts, leaving unchanged the boundaries of Cen-
tral and Southern and of Southwest. But legislators
made it quite clear this was merely an interim step
and scheduled further changes in boundaries to
reduce the state to five districts. This would require
changing the boundaries of the two older districts,
which might be construed to have created new
districts, thus losing the ad valorem taxing authority

"This version of Senate Joint Resolution 1061 pro-
vided for all water management districts to have
authorization to levy up to one mill."

for these special districts existing in 1968 when the
Constitution was revised. Southwest filed for a
declaratory judgment, seeking judicial determina-
tion that the district could continue to levy ad
valorem taxes without voter approval after the pro-
posed boundary changes.
The suit concluded in early May 1975 (while the
legislature was in session) with the court's final
Declaratory Judgment finding that: the boundary
change (then scheduled for July 1, 1975), would
result in a different Southwest District from the
district that existed on the date of the 1968 Constitu-
tion, and thus, the Southwest District would no
longer have valid authority to levy any ad valorem
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The ruling severely jeopardized ongoing projects,
contracts and activities within the two older
districts, and the "new" districts, Northwest, St.
Johns, and Suwannee, could not be authorized to
levy taxes without prior voter approval. There ap-
peared to be a general consensus that the only solu-
tion was to propose a constitutional amendment to
authorize water management districts to levy no
more than one mill, without prior voter approval. This
would keep Central and Southern at its present
authorized level and reduce the Southwest District's
taxing authority from 1.3 mills to 1 mill. The propos-
ed amendment was drafted and introduced in the
Senate on May 9, 1975. On May 28, 1975, Senate
Joint Resolution 1061 was taken up out of order on
the Senate floor, passed 28-7 and was sent to the
House for consideration. This version of Senate
Joint Resolution 1061 provided for all water manage-
ment districts to have authorization to levy up to one
On May 29, 1975, it was read for the first time in
the House and on May 30,1975, the Joint Resolution
was read for the second time. This time, an amend-
ment was made which limited the taxing power of
the northwest portion of the state to .05 mill.
Although done hurriedly, this was not a mistake or a
miscalculation. Northwest Florida legislators
acknowledged that there was a need for substantial
funding for water management in peninsular Florida
but desired only minimal funding for northwest
Florida. This amendment was accepted and the
measure was read for the third time and passed
80-29. On June 3, 1975, the measure was accepted
by the Senate in its amended form, by a vote of 22 to

"The northwest portion of Florida was limited to a
much smaller (.05 mill) ad valorem tax authorization.
At the time, it was stated that the water problems
were not nearly so severe as in the southern portion
of the state."

A separate bill was passed by the Legislature pro-
viding for a special election, on the proposed con-
stitutional amendment, to be held in connection
with the March 9. 1976 Presidential Primary. Subse-
quent to the 1975 session, a campaign supporting it
had begun, and presentations supporting the pro-
posed amendment were made throughout the state.
A group of interested persons formed a non-profit
corporation to promote the amendment, naming
itself F.L.O.W.. Inc. ("Florida Loves Our Water").
This corporation was created to raise funds to work

for the passage of the amendment.
The entire budget of the corporation never exceed-
ed $5,000-$6,000 and there was no advertising pur-
chased to promote the amendment. The campaign
was extremely low-key and engendered very little
controversy. Several prominent public officials
debated the merits of the proposal but it never
achieved major statewide recognition. Editorial
boards of major Florida newspapers were visited in
support of the amendment.

The following summary appeared on the ballot:

"Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution
authorizing and limiting local taxes for water
management purposes to not more than (1) mill."*

The proposed constitional amendment was voted
on by 1,335,240 ballots, or 37.79 percent of the
state's voters, with 735,175 (55 percent) voting "yes"
and 600,066 voting "no". The constitutional amend-
ment carried in only 18 counties, but these were
some of the most populous in the state. These also
were the areas where water management districts
have been active for years. The amendment was op-
posed by 49 of 67 Florida counties-or 73 percent.
Very few counties north of the Orlando area sup-
ported the amendment.
Approval of the constitutional amendment was
the only time in the history of Florida that voters
have approved imposing ad valorem taxation. Ap-
proval of the constitutional amendment meant a
stable tax base and an adequate financial basis for
all districts, except Northwest Florida, to carry out
water management activities.
The northwest portion of Florida was limited to a
much smaller (.05 mill) ad valorem tax authorization.
At the time, it was stated that the water problems
were not nearly so severe as in the southern portion
of the state. Interestingly enough, if memory serves
accurately, the first severe flood occurring in the
state-after the constitutional amendment
passed-was in the panhandle.

'Editor's note: The specific lanauaoe of this ballot summary is
credited to L.M. Blain author of tnis article.

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