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FAQs About Lee County Municipal Services
Taxing/Benefit Units (MST/BU)

 
Question What is an MSTU or MSBU?

Answer Many of Lee County's expenses are paid for by "Taxing Authorities". An MSTU or MSBU is a Taxing Authority, which has its own budget for both revenues and expenses. This budget is approved at a public hearing.

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Question Where can an MST/BU exist?

Answer An MSTBU can only be created in the unincorporated areas of Lee County.
Municipalities must provide any services within the incorporated boundaries of Lee County. They are the cities of Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral, Sanibel and Bonita Springs.

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Question Are there any restrictions in the unincorporated areas of Lee County?

Answer Yes. Gated communities are excluded from forming a Taxing Authority
through the MST/BU department.

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Question How is an MST/BU created?

Answer  An MST/BU is a joint effort between the local community and the County.
The community must:

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      Define the services to be provided and the area to be included in the unit. Once the area has been defined...
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      51% of the property owners must sign an informal petition. This petition does not commit the property owners. It is simply to gather information on how much the unit will cost.
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      The County then prepares a budget and a formal petition. The formal petition states the cost to the property owners. 51% of the property owners must sign and have notarized the petition. This petition is a commitment by the property owner to pay the assessment(s). After receiving 51 % or more signatures on the formal petition, it is brought before the Lee County Board of County Commissioners for approval.

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Question Who controls the budget?

Answer  Ultimately, the County has responsibility for the budget. However a
volunteer committee of 5 people or business owners may be formed to monitor and advise the County.

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Question  Is there a limit as to what can be charged?

Answer  Yes. The Florida statute that allows MST/BU's has millage cap of 10.
However, each unit may choose to impose a lower cap.

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Question  What happens if the MST/BU, overspends its budget?

Answer  This will not happen. The system is set up so that once the budget has been spent, no more purchase orders can be written. Because of this, a reserve fund must be a part of the budget. This reserve can be used for emergencies, such as hurricane or tornado damage.

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Question  What happens if all of the taxes collected are not spent?

Answer  Any taxes that are not spent will be carried over to next year's budget. All
funds collected by an MST/BU stays in that MST/BU.

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Question  Can the budget be modified during the year?

Answer  The amount of taxes collected cannot be changed once it has been approved by the Board of County Commissioners at a public hearing. However, funds can be moved from one line item to another.

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Question  Does everyone pay the same amount?

Answer  There are several methods of collecting assessments. In some instances, everyone will pay an equal portion. In other instances, a property owner will pay proportionally to the benefit he or she is receiving.

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Question  Is there an end to an MST/BU?

Answer  MST/BU's that are set up as a one time only project will have an end. MST/BU's that are set up as an Operation and Maintenance (0 & M) unit will continue indefinitely. An 0 & M can be dissolved by going through the petitioning process.

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Question  Where can I get information on the procedures to set up an MST/BU?

Answer  Our web page has information and an informal petition for setting up an MST/BU or by calling 533-2120.