Gainesville city commissioner vote yes to increased GRU rates and property taxes

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.

Raising property taxes 11.5 percent will help the city recover roughly 4 million dollars for their general budget but the GRU rate increase of 6.4 percent on top of the property tax rate increase had many citizens in attendance irate.

Jim Konish said during public comment, "you are rated as the third highest the by the Florida Municipal Electric Association for one thousand KWH, eclipsed only by Fort Meade and Key West. This before your latest fuel adjustment increase and now you're proposing to jump above everyone to the highest in the state of Florida only a few people are below us."

Nathan Skop, a GRU customer routinely at commission meetings said, "I think the question that needs to be asked is, is this equitable for the Gainesville city commission to raise GRU rates, property taxes and the fire assessment fee on hardworking Gainesville families. Those least able to afford it, before they're willing to cut a penny of their own wasteful discretionary expenditures."

Debbie Martinez during her public comment said, "if you do not make the necessary budget cuts shame on you. It is never too late to do the right thing. Lower income people and local mom and pop businesses that have invested their life savings and what little they have suffered long enough."

The city commission has made almost no cuts to its budget other than reduced pension payments. They also agreed with this vote to keep the annual general fund transfer from GRU flat instead of reducing it by 3 million dollars which were asked for by GRU's general manager. This ultimately makes for a higher rate increase.

The commission also asked the interim city manager to look at possible departmental reductions to try and find one and a half million dollars of cuts if possible. Everything voted on will need to pass two more votes in July and September before being fully approved.