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No. Special assessments can only be used for the services or facilities for which they have been imposed and are directly put back into the communities which pay these assessments.
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A special assessment is a charge placed on a property because that property receives a special benefit from the services or facilities that are funded by the special assessment. A street light special benefit is based on the provision that street lights specially benefit all of the improved parcels, whether residential or commercial, by protecting and enhancing their value, use and enjoyment. The provision of street lights provides better identification and recognition and can enhance safety and access to property. A special assessment is not a tax and is not based on the value of your property.
The streetlights are owned by Duke Energy Corporation.
The vast majority of retention ponds that are found within developments are owned and their upkeep and maintenance are the responsibility of the Home Owners Association (HOA). There are a few where the City has the responsibility for the maintenance and this is generally due to the City directly building or widening the roadway.
In other cases where the HOA has defaulted, Neighborhood Improvement Municipal Service Benefit Units (MSBU) are created for the maintenance and upkeep of the retention pond, street lighting and upkeep of other properties that the HOA would have been responsible to maintain based on their development documents.
Each parcel being assessed must receive a special benefit that equals or exceeds the amount of the special assessment actually imposed on the parcel. All developed parcels within the City benefit from street lighting services. Parcel apportionment is accomplished through the development of a base billing unit, called an Equivalent Benefit Unit (EBU).
Assessments will appear as a line item on your property tax bill. If you make monthly mortgage payments, it is likely that this amount will be escrowed by your mortgage and your monthly mortgage payment will include this assessment.
Street light services are currently paid by a gas tax revenue called the Local Option Gas Tax (LOGT) and the City’s general fund. As automobiles continue to become more efficient and in some cases 100% electric, the LOGT fund will decline to the point where it could only cover construction costs for required transportation projects (i.e., new roadways, turn lanes, traffic signals, sidewalks, etc.).
Additionally, LOGT funds are allocated to municipalities based on the proportional share of transportation expenditures made by each municipality. Street light expenditures are an allowable expense from LOGT funds, but reduce the City’s ability to maintain and construct new roadways. By utilizing the street light assessment funding source, the ongoing costs of street lights can be covered and, at the same time, the City’s LOGT and general fund can be maximized.
In the vast majority of the City as in many Cities throughout the State of Florida, Home Owner Associations (HOA) are created for the care, maintenance and upkeep of retention and internal amenities that are for the direct benefit of the property owners within that development. This affords for some self-governance and control in trying to keep land and home values at a premium. These costs are generally passed on to the owners through HOA Dues assessed to each property owner.
The majority of municipalities fund their street lighting cost from their General Fund, Local Option Gas Tax (LOGT), or through special assessments. However, special assessments are becoming more common as they are seen as a more equitable way to pay for the service.
Chapter 38, Article II of the Apopka Municipal Code outlines the role and responsibilities of the Municipal Service Benefit Units (MSBU). The MSBU in no way is a Home Owners Association (HOA), and only acts to try to assist in maintaining properties that the HOA would have had oversight in maintaining for the community. Your HOA documents may have had further restrictions or covenants placed upon the development at inception, however, an MSBU is NOT an enforcement mechanism for those restrictions or covenants.
If you have a question regarding an assessment, you may contact the City of Apopka Special Assessments Coordinator at 407-703-1700 Ext. 554, Monday through Wednesday and Friday between 9 AM and 3 PM.