TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Supreme Court ruled a special tax district was not authorized to build a hospital outside of its geographic boundaries using bonds.
Justice Alan Lawson wrote the April 18 opinion. The state Supreme Court ruled Halifax Health Medical Center was not authorized to carry out its project for which it had sought the bonds and that the lower court rightfully made that decision.
"Because neither Halifax’s enabling act nor the Interlocal Act gives Halifax the authority to operate outside its geographic boundaries, the circuit court properly denied the bond validation," Lawson wrote. "In reaching this decision, we have not overlooked the concerns that Halifax and its amici raise about the effect of a determination that Halifax cannot operate extraterritorially."
The court noted that its decision was based on "specific language of Halifax's enabling act" and that the court was not authorized to change that meaning.
"...this court is not the proper forum for a policy decision as to whether Halifax or any other special district should be allowed to operate extraterritorially," the decision states.
The hospital was created in 1925 by a special act of the state legislature and since then the hospital's enabling act has gone through several changes. Currently, the geographic boundaries for the hospital are within Volusia County.
The hospital wanted to build a hospital in Deltona, which was outside its boundaries, and sought bonds to finance the project. However, an intervenor challenged this because of the boundary issue. The circuit court upheld the challenge, and Halifax appealed that ruling to the state Supreme Court.
The state high court agreed with the circuit court, noting that the Interlocal Act does not grant the hospital the authority to act outside of its boundaries.
"Even if the language of Halifax’s enabling act and the Interlocal Act were ambiguous, we would avoid any construction of them that would render other statutes superfluous," the opinion states.
Florida Supreme Court case number: SC18-683