Gainesville City Commission votes to increase utility rates, property taxes

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Dozens of concerned Gainesville residents showed up to the Gainesville City Commission meeting on Thursday, September 12, where commissioners voted to pass ordinances increasing utility rates, property taxes and fire fees.

One by one, Gainesville residents stepped up to the microphone to voice their opinions.

“Every single month, many people live in total fear waiting for their GRU bill to arrive,” said a Gainesville resident.

Many argued that utility rates are already too high and that the proposed increase would contribute to poverty in Gainesville.

"There are a lot of people that live in the city of Gainesville who live in vulnerable neighborhoods who will be devastated, devastated by this GRU hike," said a Gainesville resident. "I am a property manager on a low to moderate-income property, and some of their light bills are more than half of their rent.”

“Every dollar that these bills go up in all these areas that you’re proposing is an instant uptick in your poverty rate,” said another Gainesville resident.

District 3 Commissioner David Arreola was not at the meeting, causing some to question the timing of his absence.

“He’s conveniently not here. I think he’s neglecting his constituents, and yet, he’s going to ask for their vote,” said a Gainesville resident.

“I’m upset because he represents his constituents, and he’s absent," said another Gainesville resident. "He’s ducking the vote.”

A secretary for Arreola says he's out of the office the entire week.

After a lengthy public comment period, commissioners voted 4-to-2 to increase rates.

Those changes will go into effect on October 1, 2019, if they pass the final vote later this month.