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Gainesville Regional Utilities customers will see no rate increase in 2021

In a 6-1 vote, commissioners voted to approve a recommendation to not increase base utility rates for FY 2021
Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 11:50 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -

Worries about making ends meet for GRU were discussed by city commissioners in a virtual meeting. Facing a major shortfall, the question that city commissioners faced today was whether to raise rates again.

GRU General Manager Ed Bielarski said, "Quite frankly, I asked, what can we do to get to no base rate increase across all the systems."

Facing $7.7 million in lost revenue due to COVID-19, staff with Gainesville Regional Utilities presented their fiscal year 2021 budget to city commissioners.

Bielarski said, “So we have actually cut below what our previous year budget was and we’re at 171,182,000.” Cuts in the budget include freezing 12 open positions, cutting temporary workers and reducing the amount of standby vehicles for emergency situations.

Bielarski added, "But I think it's something we have to do as an organization. I think it's something we have to do for the community. So that's my recommendation, is to not have any base increases in electric, water, wastewater or natural gas."

City commissioners were left with a decision to make on how to make up for that $7.7 million shortfall. Their vote, 6-to-1, with Adrian Hayes-Santos in dissent, to approve Bielarski’s recommendation to have no rate increase in 2021.

Hayes-Santos said, “I’m not supportive of the current budget and the main reason is I don’t think we’re projecting our revenues correctly and realistically. I think we should be more cautious, we’re talking about we should be more optimistic outlook on it and we hit the most COVID cases out of any state yesterday.”

With no change in 2021, customers could face a rate increase in 2022 and 2023. The only current difference in price is a 1.8% increase in connection fees for new businesses and new homes.

Copyright 2020 WCJB. All rights reserved.

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