Florida PACE Funding Agency (FPFA) filed a lawsuit against Sally L. Daniel as Hernando County Tax Collector on Aug. 31, 2023, in an effort to force the tax collector to collect FPFA’s non ad valorem assessments on real property in Hernando County.
The matter appeared on the agenda at the Brooksville City Council meeting on Oct. 16, 2023. During the proceedings, City Attorney Becky Vose introduced a discussion to assist Hernando County Tax Collector Sally Daniel in her case against the Florida PACE Funding Agency (FPFA). This organization, which has caused a multitude of issues around the state, has also sued other tax collectors across Florida, according to Vose. The tax collector has requested that the city file a showing of support for their offices with the courts. At the end of the brief update, the board voted unanimously to approve assistance for Daniels to “fight off this frivolous behavior.”
When reached for comment about the case, the tax collector’s office was unable to provide any additional information due to pending litigation.
“PACE” stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy. PACE funding agencies provide loans to homeowners for clean energy and wind resistance improvements. A PACE loan is paid back as an assessment on the property rather than a regular loan or mortgage payment. The assessment is attached to the property and will continue to be assessed even after the sale of the property. Hernando County first approved a PACE funding agency to operate within the county in 2017. More PACE funding entities were approved shortly after through non-exclusive interlocal agreements.
Effective Aug. 22, 2020, Hernando County terminated all interlocal agreements with PACE funding agencies so that no new PACE loans could be collected through special assessments. According to the city of Brooksville, this action was taken due to administrators of certain PACE entities engaging in misleading practices while communicating with and executing loan agreements with property owners. Existing loans established prior to August 22, 2020, can still be repaid through special assessments.
According to a court filing by Hernando County, the three other PACE funding entities have ceased placing new liens/assessments on properties since the county’s termination of the agreements. However, FPFA continues to do so even though it lacks authority. Additionally, FPFA has placed almost 200 new liens against Hernando County real property owners since Aug. 22, 2020, without the required consent and oversight of the county.
The current lawsuit against the Hernando County Tax Collector by the Florida PACE Funding agency seeks to force the tax collector to collect assessments on properties that were enrolled in the program after the county terminated the interlocal agreement with FPFA.
Hernando County argues that they are an indispensable party to the lawsuit brought by FPFA, as they state, “The issue of whether the Tax Collector has a ministerial duty to collect assessments that FPFA imposes is inextricably linked to whether FPFA actually possesses the authority to impose those assessments within the County.”
The county further argues in the court filing, “If this Court issues a writ of mandamus compelling the Tax Collector to collect FPFA’s unauthorized non-ad valorem taxes, the County will lose its ability to protect the interests of its citizens with respect to PACE financing, and FPFA will be empowered to continue encroaching upon the County’s home rule authority.”
Judge Pamela Stinnette Vergara is overseeing the case.
Julie B. Maglio contributed to this report.