State, Miami-Dade on same page regarding opt-in energy financing districts
By Risa Polansky
As local governments explore creating voluntary taxing districts to help property owners fund energy-efficient home improvements, they may soon get the "green" light from the state.
Miami-Dade County and a handful of municipalities down south are mulling the opt-in tax districts as a way to help "green" the area — but they'd need state legislative clearance to do so.
That could be on the way as early as next month.
Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Delray Beach has for the past month studied other states' models for the voluntary "green" taxing districts and plans to propose a program for Florida during the legislative session set to begin March 2.
"This concept is gaining momentum quickly," Mr. Hasner said. "We're looking at what others states have done and what all the other models look like and what would be the best fit for Florida."
In states like California, local governments lend volunteer property owners money to finance costly energy-efficient improvements like solar panels. Borrowers pay down the debt over time through a special assessment on their property tax bill.
The local governments generally issue bonds to make the loans, securing them with the new tax revenue.
Now, Florida lacks enabling legislation at the state level that would allow local governments to create the opt-in tax districts.
That's what Mr. Hasner is looking to put in place — and he's considering expanding the concept to include hurricane-mitigation projects such as impact windows, given Florida's stormy tendencies.
"This is a voluntary program that doesn't require any state funding or any local funding and no subsidies, which makes this an effective model for property owners to put clean energy, energy efficient projects, or storm-proofing onto their properties," he said. "This is an innovative financing tool to make these types of investments affordable for property owners."
That's local leaders' aim.
Miami-Dade commissioners Tuesday passed a Katy Sorenson initiative calling for the administration to "prepare legislation at the State and/or County level, whichever is necessary and legally permissible… regarding the establishment of a voluntary Energy Finance District."
It calls also for a report outlining an "Energy Savings Program" to encourage energy-saving installations and retrofits.
The report is to explore financing mechanisms and the types of energy-efficiency improvements the program would cover, among other details.
There's much to look into, Ms. Sorenson said.
"This is a complicated issue…. It still isn't cooked yet."
But the alternative financing option could be very helpful for local residents, she said.
Down South, Cutler Bay Mayor Paul Vrooman is mobilizing area municipalities in hopes for state clearance to band together to create an energy financing district.
He envisions a "green corridor" that would allow the neighboring governments to partner for the bonding necessary to make loans to property owners for "green" improvements like solar panels.
It makes sense here, Mr. Vrooman said. "This is the sunshine state after all."