Tax Collector’s Office Bid Request Unfair, Possibly Illegal

Each year, the Hernando County Tax Collector is required to publish overdue tax rolls in a newspaper that qualifies to publish legal opinions. In 2021, the Hernando Sun newspaper won the auction for the tax rolls. The offer was for the printing of 2,000 tax rolls per week for 3 consecutive weeks and their insertion in a newspaper which was granted the right to publish public notices.

Public notice allows the public to be informed of important government and legal actions. This is currently done through print newspapers to allow people who are not active online to also receive notice. (Reviews are published both in print and online.) Therefore, doubling the number of reviews would lead to a more informed audience. If the quantity of public notices does not matter, the price of printing a single notice would be significantly cheaper, but only a few members of the public would be informed by that single notice.

This year the tax collector did not specify the number to be printed and when the Hernando Sun asked about the quantity to be printed, the tax collector’s office suggested that the Hernando Sun offer our print run which was double the number that the Tampa Bay Times (Times) offers. This indicates that Hernando Sun’s circulation for Hernando County distribution is most likely double that of The Times.

The Hernando Sun contacted the tax collector’s office and was told to look at the law as it had changed significantly to determine how many tax deed notices to print. The laws covering overdue tax rolls do not specify the number of overdue tax rolls to be printed. The Hernando Sun contacted Sam Morley, legal counsel for the Florida Press Association, who helped craft the new parts of the imprint law. He was not aware of any changes to outstanding tax assessments.

Hernando Sun’s bid to print twice as many overdue tax deed notices was 10.5% higher than the Times’ offer. The Hernando Tax Collector compared the offers on price alone and assigned the delinquent tax deeds to the Tampa Bay Times.

When asked by the Hernando Sun how many tax rolls the Times printed in its winning bid, the tax collector’s office had to ask the Times to find out that it printed 2,000 per run (or week) . This offer was half that of Hernando Sun.

The problem with not printing enough overdue tax notices for a full print run is that not all newspapers will publish the notices. If someone is looking for the notices, he must not only find the newspaper, but a newspaper that publishes the tax notices. That’s why the Hernando Sun quoted the price of a full print this year.

The Hernando Sun is Hernando County’s local woman-owned newspaper. It has more followers in Hernando County and thereby provides more reviews to the Hernando County community. The Hernando County Tax Collector’s Office, by ignoring the amount of overdue tax notices printed, effectively punishes the Hernando Sun for having a larger subscriber base in Hernando County. It is unfair to ask for offers without specifying a quantity or without considering the quantity offered.

The Hernando Sun protested the award of this bid and was informed that we lost the award because we offered to print too many outstanding tax notices. The Hernando Sun did not receive a number of print notices and even requested the tax collector’s office to provide a number of print notices. The Hernando Sun had to bid without knowing the quantity they wanted, then was told they had lost the bid because their price was too high because they had offered too many public notices.

Esther L. Steinbach