Gainesville City Commission Vote Yes to Increased GRU Rates and Property Taxes

by Landon Harrar

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) — It’s a double-whammy for taxpayers in the city of Gainesville.

City commissioners voted Wednesday to approve 6.4 percent rate increase for electricity, and that isn’t the only rate hike.

Commissioners have for months been trying to find millions of dollars to make up for their budget shortage. Wednesday, on a vote of 4-3, property taxes, the fire fee, and GRU rates will help fix that gap. Read the rest HERE.

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Residents are NOT happy about it. From Facebook :

Commissioners approved a 6.4% electric rate increase and property tax increase that could be as high as 11.5%.

After months of deliberations, Gainesville’s elected leaders on Wednesday decided to increase electric rates and property taxes to make up what’s left of a budget shortfall.

The Gainesville City Commission voted 4-3 to increase electric rates by 6.4% and bump property taxes up 11.5%, an increase that will cost most city residents hundreds more a year. Commissioners Gail Johnson, Harvey Ward and Gigi Simmons voted in dissent.

The City Commission will vote again in July and September to finalize the increases.

The electric increase is higher than what Gainesville Regional Utilities officials initially requested and eats up savings customers had seen from the $754 million biomass plant purchase in 2017.

Though currently the lowest in the county, the city’s proposed property tax rate would be the highest it’s been in 25 years. The increase puts Gainesville at the second lowest, behind Archer, and would add almost $4 million to the city’s budget.

Property values have gone up roughly 6% in Alachua County in the past year.

Those in attendance asked city leaders to think about cutting the budget before considering increases on taxpayers and pointed to GRU customers’ charges and rates that are already at or near the highest in the state.

The proposed revenue increases will cover the city’s remaining $3.2 million budget deficit — a hole that started at $12 million. The city’s budget also includes new commission initiatives and 16.5 full-time employees at a cost of $1.2 million, which interim City Manager Deborah Bowie said were not a factor in the deficit.

Throughout the budget process, the commission has not made any cuts to its budget, with the exception of about $790,000 in reduced pension payments.

Commissioners on Wednesday agreed to consider up to $1.5 million in department cuts at an upcoming meeting, a suggestion they rejected in February.

Mayor Lauren Poe said the city has been “very conservative” on spending and that the city has done everything possible to lower rates or keep them steady, despite increasing rates in each of the last three years.

“You cannot starve government into greatness,” Poe said. “We cannot address the challenges we have as a community by reducing the level of service that our customers both expect and need.”

Poe also said an upcoming renters’ rights ordinance will have the most significant and positive impact on electric bills.

Earlier in the year, it was suggested that GRU and the City Hall side of government would share the $12 million deficit. GRU had refinanced its debt, adding $114 million in new debt, to make up most of the deficit.

After Wednesday’s meeting, it was clear that property owners and GRU customers will be forced to make up the difference with increases in their property taxes and utility bills.

The utility’s general manager, Ed Bielarski, asked the city to cut about $3 million from the general fund transfer — money that moves from GRU to City Hall to pay for various services. The GFT currently sits around $38 million and typically grows about 1.5% each year. GRU had initially requested commissioners lower the GFT by $6 million, instead of increasing it, so customers weren’t impacted as much. In the end, commissioners kept the GFT flat, resulting in a higher electric rate increase.

Bielarski estimates the increases, for those who use 1,000 kWh, will make customer’s electric bills go up 4.25% and about 2.5% on the overall bill.

“I know for some people that’s difficult for them,” Bielarski said. “But it is something that the utility needs to maintain its fleet of assets and to keep its financial strength intact.”

In April, the utility had the third-highest residential bills and by far the highest commercial bills in the state.

GRU customers also will see increases for other utility services.

Gas rates will increase 0.57%, water 0.44% and wastewater 0.42% to make up for employee raises previously approved by the commission last month. In April, GRU had also increased its fuel adjustment charge by $3.50 per 1,000 kWh.

Commissioners also agreed to increase the fire assessment fee by up to 32% percent to make up for rising costs. The proposed increase was initially $11.

If approved in July, the city will charge $133 per fire protection unit.

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  • Ivo Rabell In April, the utility had the third-highest residential bills and by far the highest commercial bills in the state.Together with the upcoming “renters right ordinance” The left/progressive city commissioners are slowly turning Gainesville into a small city shit-hole just like the left/progressive commissioners have done in San Francisco. L.A., Seattle, Portland, etc.
  • Richard Giambrone The city under the guise of “renters rights” will further alienate owners from thieir investments. I’ve been in the business a lot of years and I remember way back somewhere in the late 70’s or early 80’s many of us went to a commission meeting concerning our properties. The point is this city has had over a 40 year history of scapegoaing and landlord abuse without ever acknowledging the befenits landlords do for the this tiny back water( read soon to be Shole) municipality. The fees we pay to the city far surpass any expense created from absentee ownership.Recently they suspended the prison labor cotract which was a great savings due to the low wage paid for that service. In place of that program they hired “x” number of full time employees to do what the prisoners did. Meanwhile they pat themselves on the back and loudly and proudly proclaim “look at the jobs WE created” All they did was raise the expenses. UNTIL THE LEADERS OF THIS COMMUNITY STOP SEEING CITY GOVERNMENT AS GIANT MAKEWORK PROGRAM WE WILL CONTINUE TO SEE RED INK.

    Link to post and comments on Facebook.

The REAL Socialist Agenda

IMPORTANT: Gainesville City Commission Meeting Tonight – GRU

From the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee:

To ACREC members and Concerned GRU Customers,
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A very important meeting is happening this week at the Gainesville City Commission on Thursday, 3/21, at 6:00 pm and your attendance is requested.  PLEASE ARRIVE BY 5:45 TO GET A SEAT!!  The City is going to take a vote on MORE DEBT!!! They refuse to cut spending on “pet projects.” In summary, the UAB (Utility Advisory Board) had a meeting last Thursday to look at refinancing some existing bond and increasing our debt by another $200 million or so. The bonds would have been paid off over the next 5 years, but the CC (City Commission) doesn’t want to reduce spending to make this happen. So they want to refinance the bonds at a lower initial rate, but based on the repayment schedule GRU will have to increase what it pays back. Basically kicking the can down the road and making the situation worse! The CC is on record talking about the dire consequences of NOT doing the refi as GRU bond rates might get lowered. Well several hours before the meeting GM (General Manager) Ed Bielarski had been notified by the rating agency Fitch that some of GRU’s debt had been downgraded, but did not disclose this fact to the full board, but did share this with Commission Adrian Hayes-Santos and the UAB chair. The UAB voted for the refi and the $200+ million which the CC will be voting on at theThursday evening meeting. Bielarski withheld the news from the UAB board and effectively spun his presentation to make the UAB vote the way he wanted – which is what the CC wanted! So the UAB gives the CC cover for acting fiscally irresponsible AGAIN! (The reason for the downgrade was that GRU has too much debt! GRU needs the $200+ because they have burnt thru significant reserves and they don’t want to reduce the $38 million general fund transfer. The estimates are that they need to cut the budget by $12 million or by some number and raise taxes. They hate the word bankruptcy, but the debt is going to consume ever larger chunks of GRU cash flow and insolvency is a very real possibility!
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Filling the chamber is necessary to help stop the City Commission from taking GRU deeper into debt in the wake of a downgrade that was concealed from the public. You don’t have speak if you don’t want to, you can just echo what Wilbur Holloway, Nathan Skop and other GRU customers are going to say. If you want to speak, the leaders of our ACREC Local Government Affairs Committee (Wilbur Holloway and Darlene Pifalo) will be able to . This is another BAD DEAL for GRU customers! A lower credit rating hurts GRU customers!!
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PLEASE COME AND BRING A FRIEND OR NEIGHBOR!!!!
We need as many people as possible!!!
STOP the Gainesville City Commission for taking GRU even deeper into debt.
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Meeting Location:
City Hall
200 E. University Avenue, Gainesville
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Please contact
Wilbur Holloway at
352-359-5677 for more information.

If Democrats Win the House They Will Chair Key Committees – STOP THEM

by Alan Berkelhammer:

This would not be good:

Judge Judy would not be happy if Republicans do not turn out on Election Day and let the Democrats take over the House.

But remember, this does not have to happen. You can help keep the gains of the last two years from being reversed by the Democrats (AKA Progressives, AKA Socialists), the prosperity, the low unemployment, the conservative Supreme Court justices, the reductions in bureaucratic regulations, the strong economic growth. Here’s a list of 52 Trump accomplishments. If you haven’t already voted, get out there and vote. And whether you have or not, talk to your friends, neighbors and relatives and let them know how important it is to vote to keep this train on the right track – LIBERTY AND PROSPERITY.

And when you hear people saying that the Democrats are going to win the mid-terms, whether it be in the media (print, radio or TV), in live conversations or in the pundit polls, just remember how wrong those polls were in 2016:

Exclusive — Donald Trump, Jr., Kevin McCarthy to Host Tele-Townhall with One Million Low-Propensity GOP Voters Ahead of Midterms

AP/Getty Images

By Matthew Boyle:

Donald Trump, Jr., and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will host a teletownhall Sunday with a million low-propensity GOP voters, imploring them to get out to vote and back Republicans in Tuesday’s midterm elections, Breitbart News has learned exclusively.

““I can’t wait to join with Don Jr. again to rally the grassroots and help secure another House Republican majority,” McCarthy told Breitbart News.

“For months now, both Leader McCarthy and I have been doing everything in our power to help Republicans preserve our majority in the House,” Trump, Jr., President Donald Trump’s eldest son, added in a statement to Breitbart News. “For Republicans to be successful on Tuesday, we need our base to be motivated, and it’s our hope that this grassroots teletownhall is one way for us to make that a reality.” Read the rest of this article at breitbart.com.

Comrade Andrew Gillum

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