Florida Special District Handbook Online:
Bond Financing and Reporting Requirements
A special district's charter may authorize the special district to issue bonds, payable from taxes or other assessments, to finance or refinance capital projects. The charter will specify whether a referendum is required to issue bonds.
Bond Referendum Required
If the charter requires a bond referendum, the special district can only issue bonds after a majority vote of the people living in the special district vote in favor of a bond referendum. To start the process, the special district must adopt a resolution ordering a bond referendum. Next, the special district must give notice follows:
- Provide at least 30 days notice of the referendum
- If a local newspaper of general circulation exists in the area, publish the notice at least twice - once in the fifth week before the referendum and once in the third week before the referendum
- If no such newspaper exists in the area, post the notice in at least five places within the limits of the special district
- Hold the referenda where the special district holds its general elections
The bond referendum must comply with the general election provisions contained in Chapter 100, Florida Statutes - General, Primary, Special, Bond, And Referendum Elections, unless sections 100.201 through 100.351, Florida Statutes, exempts it otherwise. Community Development Districts are exempt from the general election procedures. The special district must pay the election costs, unless otherwise provided.
Bond Referendum Not Required
Special districts that have the authority to issue bonds without a referendum must ensure that at the time of the closing, the bonds met at least one of the following criteria:
- The bonds were rated in one of the highest four ratings by a nationally recognized rating service.
- The bonds were privately placed with or otherwise sold to accredited investors.
- The bonds were backed by a letter of credit from a bank, savings and loan association, or other creditworthy guarantor, or by bond insurance, guaranteeing payment of principal and interest on the bonds.
- The bonds were accompanied by an independent financial advisory opinion stating that estimates of debt service coverage and probability of debt repayment are reasonable. This opinion must have been provided by an independent financial advisory, consulting, or accounting firm registered where professional registration is required by law, and is in good standing with the state and in conformance with all applicable professional standards for such opinions.
Complaint for Validation of Bonds
Any special district may determine its authority to do the following by filing a Complaint for Validation of Bonds in the circuit court of the county in which the special district is located:
- Incur Bonded Debt
- Issue Certifications of Debt
- Assess Taxes Levied or to be Levied
- Initiate Proceedings or Remedies for Collection
The Complaint for Validation of Bonds must provide the following:
- The special district's authority to incur the bonded debt or to issue certificates
- Proof that an election was held along with the results of the election
- Verification that a resolution or ordinance was adopted (if applicable)
- The amount of the bonds or certificates to be issued
- The interest the bonds are to bear
- A reference to the creation of a trust indenture established for a bonded trustee acceptable to the court (independent special districts only)
The Complaint for Validation of Bonds for drainage, conservation, or reclamation special districts, must also include proof of its authority to do the following:
- Create such a special district
- Issue the bonds
- Levy and assess taxes
The court must certify the proper expenditure of the proceeds of the bonds by issuing a Validation Order.
A special district may validate bonds, certificates, and other obligations, at its option, so no one can ever question the validity of the bonds, certificates, or other obligations. This process is as follows:
- File a Complaint for Validation pursuant to Chapter 75, Florida Statutes - Bond Validation.
- The court will order the state, property owners, taxpayers, and others affected by the issue to appear at a hearing in the circuit court where the complaint is filed, to show cause why the bonds should not be validated.
- At least 20 days before this hearing, the special district must serve a copy of the Complaint for Validation of Bonds and a copy of the Order to Show Cause on the state attorney in the circuit, or each circuit, if the special district's jurisdiction covers more than one judicial circuit.
- The state attorney will then examine the Complaint for Validation of Bonds. If they question the validity of the bonds or certificates, the special district must make a defense. Make sure the state attorney has access to all records concerning the bonds or certificates.
- No less than 20 days before the hearing, and at least once a week for two consecutive weeks, the county clerk will publish a copy of the Order to Show Cause in a newspaper of general circulation in the county or counties in which the special district filed the Complaint for Validation of Bonds. This publication causes all people interested in the action to become defendants to the action, as if they had been personally served with process.
- If the final judgment validates the district's bonds, certificates, or other obligations, and no one makes an appeal, the judgment is forever conclusive as to matters adjudicated thereby, and no one can ever question the validity of the bonds, certificates, or other obligations.
Selling General Obligation Bonds and Revenue Bonds
Special districts selling general obligation bonds and revenue bonds must sell them at a public sale by competitive bids. However, if the special district determines that it is in its best interest to sell the bonds through a negotiated sale, it may do so.
Competitive Bid Requirements
Publish, in one or more newspapers or financial journals, a notice of the sale, one or more times, at least ten days before the date of the sale. Include a truth-in-bonding statement in substantially the following form:
The (insert special district's name) is proposing to issue $ (insert principal) of debt or obligation for the purpose of (insert purpose). This debt or obligation is expected to be repaid over a period of (insert term of issue) years. At a forecasted interest rate of (insert rate of interest), total interest paid over the life of the debt or obligation will be $ (insert sum of interest payments).
The source of repayment or security for this proposal is the (insert special district's name) existing (insert fund). Authorizing this debt or obligation will result in $ (insert the annual amount) of (insert special district's name) (insert fund) moneys not being available to finance the other services of the (insert special district's name) each year for (insert the length of the debt or obligation).
- Open all proposals in public.
- Do not reject any bid conforming to the notice of sale, unless all bids are rejected. If all bids are rejected, the bonds may then be sold at a public sale by competitive bids or negotiated sale.
- Award the bonds, by resolution, to the lowest bid consistent with the notice of sale.
- Within 90 days after delivery of the bonds, each underwriter or financial consultant must file with the special district a statement listing the fees, bonuses, or gratuities the underwriter paid to anyone other than a regular employee of the underwriter.
Negotiated Sale Requirements
If a special district's governing body determines that a negotiated sale of the bonds is in the best interest of the special district, the special district may negotiate the sale of the bonds. The following special requirements apply:
- The special district's governing body must hold a public meeting to adopt a Resolution for Bond Sale authorizing a negotiated bond sale. This resolution must state the specific reasons why a negotiated sale is necessary. This resolution may also authorize the issuance of such bonds.
- The managing underwriter or financial consultant or advisor must provide a disclosure statement to the special district before the special district awards the bonds to the managing underwriter. The disclosure statement must contain the following information:
- An itemized list showing the nature and estimated amounts of expenses that the managing underwriter will incur in connection with issuing the bonds.
- The names, addresses, and estimated amounts of compensation of any "finders" connected with the issuance of the bonds. A "finder" is a person who is not regularly employed by, or not a partner or officer of, an underwriter, bank, banker, or financial consultant or adviser and who enters into an understanding with either the issuer or the managing underwriter, or both, for any paid or promised compensation or valuable consideration directly or indirectly, expressly or impliedly, to act solely as an intermediary between such issuer and managing underwriter for the purpose of influencing any transaction in the purchase of such bonds.
- The amount of underwriting spread expected.
- Any management fee the managing underwriter will charge.
- Any other fee, bonus, and other compensation estimated to be paid by the managing underwriter in connection with the bond issue to any person not regularly employed or retained by it.
- The managing underwriter's name and address.
- Any other disclosure the special district may require.
Within 90 days after the delivery of the bonds each underwriter or financial consultant must file with the special district a statement listing the following:
- Management fees charged by the underwriter.
- Underwriting spread to be realized.
- Fees, bonuses, or gratuities paid by the underwriter to anyone other than a regular employee of the underwriter.
Bond Reporting Requirements
All special districts issuing bonds must electronically submit to the State Board of Administration of Florida, Division of Bond Finance, an Advance Notice of Sale, Bond Information Form (BF2003) and a copy of the Official Statement, if one is published. In addition, submit Bond Disclosure Form BF2004-A Competitive Sale or BF2004-B Negotiated Sale, unless the special district is issuing bonds under the following statutes:
- Health Facilities Authorities Law, Chapter 154, Part III, Florida Statutes - Health Facilities Authorities
- Florida Industrial Development Financing Act, Chapter 159, Part II, Florida Statutes - Florida Industrial Development Financing Act
- Industrial Development Authorities, Chapter 159, Part III, Florida Statutes - Industrial Development Authorities
- Research and Development Authorities Law, Chapter 159, Part V, Florida Statutes - Research and Development Authorities
- Higher Educational Facilities Financing, Chapter 243, Part II, Florida Statutes - Higher Educational Facilities Financing
The Division of Bond Finance has implemented a system for electronic filing of the notice of sale and the information forms. Filing electronically at the following website satisfies the statutory reporting requirements, and does away with the need to submit paper copies of documents.
The following reporting requirements apply to special district bond issues (but not bond anticipation notes):
Advance Notice of a Bond Sale
Before a special district issues general obligation or revenue bonds, the special district must electronically provide advance notice of the sale to the Division of Bond Finance at the following website:
If a notice of sale is published, the notice must be electronically submitted to the Division of Bond Finance before the sale date. If the sale of the bond issue is by a competitive sale process, the notice must be published at least ten days before the sale in one or more newspapers or financial journals published in or out of Florida.
Bond Information Form/Bond Disclosure Form (BF2003/2004A and B)
This form collects bond information from new bond issues only, as appropriate, depending upon the circumstances of the bond issuance:
- Bond Information (BF2003) - File within 120 days after the delivery of the bond issue.
- Bond Disclosure (Competitive Sale, BF2004-A) - File within 120 days after delivery of the bonds.
- Bond Disclosure (Negotiated Sale, BF 2004-B) - File within 120 days after delivery of the bonds.
The Division of Bond Finance has combined the forms into a single document for ease and convenience in electronic filing. Please note that an issuer may access the forms at the following website after the notice of sale has been electronically submitted:
Bond Verification Form (BF 2005)
The Division of Bond Finance periodically sends this form, along with copies of bond disclosure information they have on file, to special districts for updating. Within 45 days, the special district must update and correct items on the form as necessary, then return it to the Division of Bond Finance.
Final Official Statement
The final official statement is a document published by the issuer (usually prepared by underwriter's counsel or disclosure counsel), which generally discloses material information on a bond issue. This includes the purposes of the bond issue, how the bonds will be prepaid, and the financial, economic and demographic characteristics of the issuer. Investors may use this information to evaluate the credit quality of the bonds. Some bonds may be issued without publishing an official statement; however, if one is published regarding an issue for which a filing is required with the Division of Bond Finance, the Official Statement must also be filed with the Division of Bond Finance. Submit official statements to firstname.lastname@example.org.
IRS Form 8038
If the special district issued any bonds under the following, file a copy of this form with the Division of Bond Finance, in addition to the other forms:
Failure to Comply with Bond Reporting Requirements
In the case of a special district that does not timely file bond related reports or information, the State Board of Administration of Florida, Division of Bond Finance, will notify the Special District Accountability Program. The program will send a certified letter to the special district that summarizes the requirements and encourages it to take steps to prevent the noncompliance from reoccurring.
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