|Publication:Englewood Sun;||Date:May 6, 2015;||Section:Englewood Sun (Local);||Page Number:ES8|
Charlotte to hike MSBU rates
By GARY ROBERTS STAFF WRITER
MURDOCK — In their annual review of municipal benefit service units, county commissioners are proposing to decrease rates in some areas, maintain the same assessments in others and boost rates in several MSBUs, sometimes dramatically.
At Tuesday’s MSBU workshop, the commission discussed a few large MSBUs, which define a geographic area within the county through which particular services are provided with non-ad valorem assessments charged per lot (equivalent residential unit or ERU).
Most of the MSBU rate hikes were not debated, with the exception being for Harbour Heights Street & Drainage. When Commissioner Ken Doherty learned that homes on dirt roads would be charged the same as property owners living on roads slated for resurfacing, he objected.
Doherty also said he wants to review the work program of MSBUs that do not have a citizens’ advisory committee, saying they may deserve a rate hike as well.
“Cook Brown is one MSBU where you may want to consider a rate increase,” he said.
Smaller MSBUs also could expect significant increases, such as Lemon Bay S&D, which currently requires an annual $30 payment per ERU but would rise to $249 next year, if planned rates are approved.
Other S&D MSBUs forecast for a rate surge include Peace River Shores ($97/$331), Punta Gorda Non-Urban Maintenance ($93/$212), Rotonda Heights ($50/$163), Rotonda Meadows and Villas ($47/$155), South Punta Gorda Heights ($50/$312), South PG Heights West ($50/$266) and Suncoast Boulevard ($30/$94).
In addition, some MSBUs designated for fire protection can expect a rate hike. The Charlotte County Fire MSBU, which reduced rates in 2009 and 2011 to lower reserves, is facing a 15 percent boost for next year. Similarly, Little Gasparilla Island Fire MSBU is looking at a 90 percent rate hike for a second firefighter/EMT and pumper truck.
And the Barrier Island Fire MSBU rate would increase by $110, which does not include necessary improvements to fire station 10.
“There’s major remodeling that needs to be done,” county Fire Chief Marianne Taylor said.
In some cases, surveys were sent out to property owners asking their opinion on proposed rate increases for improvements. For example, in the Harbour Heights S&D MSBU, owners were asked if they supported a higher assessment to repave 26 miles of roadway and laying six new sidewalks. As in other similar surveys, most responses came back against the proposal, but overall a majority of surveys were never returned at all.
“That’s telling me they’re not objecting to it,” said Danny Quick, county public works director. “To me, that’s a yes.”
Besides citing the need for various street resurfacing programs, Quick also pointed to the MSBU citizen advisory committees, which typically supported the projects.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Tricia Duffy lamented the poor return rate on MSBU surveys, saying the county is spending thousands of dollars.
“It’s a shame we don’t get more input,” Duffy said.
The proposed rate increases will be formally voted on at the May 26 County Commission meeting. The new-rate recommendations will then be sent out to property owners, along with a notice for a public hearing, if one is required.
Final approval would come after the public hearings, scheduled for July 20-23. The new rates would be included in the TRIM (true rate in millage) notices mailed out in August.