By ALICIA LEONARD
Municipal Services Benefit Units (MSBU) are often misunderstood as to the hows and whys they are used. Walton County Administrator Ronnie Bell sat down with the Herald to clarify their use.
“MSBUs are special assessments that are used by local government to provide services within unincorporated areas of the county. This is not a tax that is assessed on the price of someone’s home. First, it has to be proven that whatever that unincorporated part of the community needs would benefit from using the MSBU system and then it would be a flat rate charge to those in that community.”
MSBUs have to undergo a process before ever reaching their final stage with unincorporated area residents being billed for improvements. A group called Government Service Group helps the county adhere to all legalities concerning MSBUs.
WALTON COUNTY Administrator Ronnie Bell takes some of the mystery out of MSBUs for Herald readers. (Photo by Alicia Leonard)
“You have to show a benefit and a formula to put that benefit into action. Once you find out a group is interested in using MSBU’s, we have a community meeting and ask what it is they want, which range from resurfacing roads to structural needs. We then send out a straw ballot by finding every property owner in that area and ask if they want to move forward with looking at the possibility of using a MSBU. If we get an over 51 percent favorable response then we move onto the next step.
“We then do preliminary estimate of what these improvements will cost. We then send out another ballot telling the property owners what each per rate lot will be approximately and If those ballots come back with an approval number of 51 percent or more, then we have to go to the Walton County Commission and then we go through the public hearing and ordinance adoption procedure.”
Bell emphasis that the public is included throughout the process. “These charges have to be approved by the citizens and benefit the citizens who pay for them.”