By Zachary W. Lombardo, Florida Government Relations Attorney
In addition to the various branches of state government, as of the date of this article, Florida has 67 counties, 67 school districts, 412 municipalities (cities, towns, villages), and 1,788 other special districts, including fire control districts and community development districts. These many local government entities are the primary agencies delivering local and regional government services in Florida.
There are 27 community development districts in Collier County alone. By way of background, Community Development Districts (CDD) are independent special districts that focus on providing more localized infrastructure and services to individual discrete communities. They are established to manage and finance basic community development services, typically drainage systems, subdivision roads, access control on local/subdivision roads, and landscaping of roads and buffers.
Direct Impact on Residents
Each of the above many different government bodies makes vital decisions that directly impact the day-to-day life of the State’s residents and its visitors, and, if you are reading this, most likely you too.
By State law, each of these local and regional governments must, with limited exceptions, have open meetings and allow public participation at those meetings. This requirement is referred to as the “Sunshine Law.” In these open meetings, local and regional governments make decisions daily that impact your quality of life, including, for example, purchasing essential equipment, such as fire trucks; making planning decisions that permit the development of an industrial park or deciding how tall any one building may be; or whether to approve tax or assessment increases or decreases.
Public Participation by Citizens
It is important to participate in the process, not just to comment on the amount of your tax bill but to provide your input on ways to maintain or improve your community and quality of life. In addition, it is important your local and regional government officials hear your concerns.
In addition to holding office or serving on a local or regional government volunteer advisory board, it is essential to take advantage of the ability to attend local and regional government meetings, address your elected or appointed officials on public business, and communicate your thoughts and concerns. Florida’s local and regional governments go to great lengths to facilitate public participation. We encourage you to determine what local and regional governments impact your daily life and actively participate.
Finding Local Governments that Affect You
A straightforward way for you, if you are a property owner, to obtain a general overview of the local and regional governments that affect you is to check your tax bill. Most local and regional governments receive their funding by collecting taxes or assessments on your property. Therefore, the names of those governments will appear on your tax bill.
Additionally, most local and regional governments have websites. In fact, special districts are mandated by law to have a website. Once you determine what local and regional governments impact you, you can check their websites and start participating. Local and regional government works best when there is quality participation.
Should you have any questions about local or regional government, please feel free to contact any of the attorneys listed below:
Zachary W. Lombardo is a Naples native and an associate attorney at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. His Juris Doctorate is from the Florida State University College of Law, where he graduated cum laude. He focuses his land use, zoning, business, contract drafting, and litigation practice in the Southwest Florida community.
Lenore T. Brakefield is a partner at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. and a Naples native. Her Juris Doctorate is from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she graduated cum laude. Lenore focuses her law practice on civil and commercial litigation. She is experienced in construction litigation matters, local government law, Sunshine Laws, code enforcement violations, real estate law, contracts, and transactional matters. In addition, Lenore is a Certified Financial Litigator (CFL™) by The American Academy for Certified Financial Litigators.
Partner Anthony P. Pires, Jr. is Board Certified Specialist by The Florida Bar in City, County & Local Government Law. He represents numerous public and governmental entities, special districts, concerned citizens, and private sector clients throughout Collier and Lee Counties in Local Government Law, Land Use and Zoning Law, and Government Relations.
Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A.
3200 Tamiami Trail N, Ste 200
Naples, FL 34103
Marco Island Office:
606 Bald Eagle Dr, Ste 500
Marco Island, FL 34145