Lee County ‘iguana panel’ to meet on Tuesday … Fifth board member sought

March 1, 2019
By Marcy Shortuse

■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
The Gasparilla Island Municipal Service Benefit Unit, also known as “The Iguana Board” for the Lee County portion of the island will meet on Tuesday, March 5 at 1 p.m. at the Boca Bay Powerhouse, 800 Gulf Blvd. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss general business and the budget for next year. All residents are invited to attend and participate.
The last meeting of this board was recorded was in 2016, when the MSTBU board members present (Wagner and former board member Charles Stark) were told by county officials that the hunting taxes were going up by .102 percent, that a $10,000 interfund loan amount taken by the taxing unit had to be repaid. The reason why was explained as the fact that money was barely trickling into the MSTBU fund because many people had signed up to pay the tax quarterly, and were behind on their payments.
At that time Trapper George Cera’s new contract was expected to come in at around $69,999, but the county had budgeted for $80,000.
No official votes could be taken because only two of the four members were present.
When the County made public the budget sheet for the 2018-19 fiscal year, total expenditures for the project came in at $120,833, including Cera’s proposed salary for $86,940.
Tax assessments between 2010 and 2018 have climbed from 0.0554 to 0.0626.
The board was created in March of 2006 when it became apparent there was a serious iguana problem.
Cera has been the primary iguana trapper for the program almost since the inception and has documented his kills since that time. Iguana numbers are documented as dwindling exponentially over the years, and depend on many factors such as weather, geographical location on the island (state park land and many private owners won’t allow iguanas to be eradicated on their property, which means those places become a haven for breeding iguanas) and food sources.
Current board members are Sally Kling, Skip Branin, Joan Hall and Kay Wagner. All of the board members are from the immediate Boca Bay neighborhood except for Wagner, who lives on Shore Lane. Wagner has been on the board for years but Kling, Branin and Hall have all joined the panel since June of 2018.
There is a vacancy on the board that needs to be filled by a Lee County resident of the island. To inquire about the position call Tim Gard, MSTBU services, (239) 533-2308 or email tgard@leegov.com.
The last meeting recorded was in 2016, when the MSBU board members present (Wagner and former board member Charles Stark) were told by county officials that the hunting taxes were going up by .102 percent, that a $10,000 interfund loan amount taken by the taxing unit had to be repaid. The reason why was explained as the fact that money was barely trickling into the MSTBU fund because many people had signed up to pay the tax quarterly, and were behind on their payments.
At that time the Cera’s new contract was expected to come in at around $69,999, but the county had budgeted for $80,000.
No official votes could be taken because only two of the four members were present.
The purpose of this group is to provide a budget estimate for maintenance of streetlights and eradication of invasive exotic animal species.