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30 Florida Counties Join Suit Against Tax-Bill-Based Home Hardening Program

Tax collectors in more than 30 Florida counties have joined a lawsuit against a home-hardening and energy efficiency program, arguing that it misleads homeowners and saddles them with huge property tax bills.

The Florida PACE Funding Agency has pushed back, winning a court order earlier this month that requires one county to keep the program’s assessments on tax bills this year and in the future.

“This victory is not only a pivotal moment for FPFA but also carries far-reaching implications for residents and special districts throughout Florida,” a program official said in a statement. “The decision ensures the continued support for essential home improvements that countless Florida families rely on.”

The issue has gained attention around the state as homeowners struggle with soaring property insurance premiums. A similar, state-run program, known as My Safe Florida Home, provides matching grants for wind-mitigation work on homes, which can result in premium discounts or smaller premium increases for homeowners.

But that program has proven so popular that it has seen a backlog of applicants. The Florida governor has proposed another $107 million in funding for the My Safe Florida Home program for next year. Critics have charged that’s not enough to help thousands of needy homes in storm-swept Florida.

Meanwhile, the PACE program, which stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy, has made its own headlines, as many county officials have railed against it. Unlike a loan mechanism, homeowners who sign up with PACE agree to have the funding tacked on to their property tax bills each year. The program was authorized by the Florida Legislature years ago.

But some county leaders have warned that many residents don’t understand the process and have been surprised by 300% increases in their property taxes, according to news reports and court records.

In the suit filed in Leon County Circuit Court, tax collectors are asking a judge to bar PACE from utilizing the property tax assessment system. The complaint cites a July resolution from the Leon County Board of Commissioners, declaring that PACE “poses an immediate danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the citizens of the County and compromises significant legal rights…” The judge had previously ruled that PACE did not need county government approval for the added assessments.

Supporters of PACE have said that it provides badly needed new roofs and windows for lower- and middle-income residents and for those who can’t obtain bank loans for the mitigation work.


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