BY JENNIFER CABRERA / SEPTEMBER 9, 2019
The Gainesville City Commission will be considering a number of increases in GRU rates and fees at their special budget meeting this Thursday at 6:00 pm.
Most attention has been paid to the increase in residential rates, since that affects everyone in the area who gets their electricity from GRU. The first increase is to the Electric Customer Charge, the monthly fee paid by everyone who has an electric meter, even if there is no usage; that fee goes from $14.25 to $15 per month, an increase of 5.26%. The rate for “Energy Use, Tier 1 (0-850 kWh)” goes from 0.0702/kWh to 0.0745/kWh, a 6.13% increase. The rate for “Energy Use, Tier 2 (over 850 kWh)” goes from 0.0930/kWh to 0.0987/kWh, also a 6.13% increase. For a customer using 1000 kWh/month, that would be an increase of $5.94/month. (Our previous article showed that a resident in a house valued at $64k will also pay about $5.36/month more in property taxes if the proposed budget passes.)
A little-known fact about GRU is that for residential dwellings with 1-4 units, electricity is bundled with monthly garbage and stormwater fees. For a customer with water and gas service, the lowest possible monthly fee is $75.79, assuming zero usage. For county residents who get their electricity from GRU, the monthly minimum is $70.08. Every time the monthly customer charges are increased, this “zero usage” amount goes up, hurting low-income residents the most. On top of that, since all these charges are bundled, a failure to pay any part of the bill results in the loss of electric service. (In the county, the garbage and stormwater fees are paid through county taxes and due once a year, not monthly, so they don’t affect electric service. The $70.08 monthly fee above includes 1/12 of these annual charges; the actual minimum monthly fee that has to be paid to GRU is $54.18.)
There are numerous other increases in the long list of rates and fees charged by the city, including 5% across-the-board for all types of service fees, but the percentage increases in outdoor lighting are notable, mainly because the school board and county rent outdoor lighting from the city, and increases in these rates may result in higher property tax rates for those entities, paid, of course, by residents. Non-LED general-use floodlight monthly rental rates, for example, will increase an average of 56%. Non-LED roadway light rates are increasing as much as 63%. Light pole rates are increasing by an average of 45.71%.
Although the city commission frequently discusses the need for more affordable housing in the area, property taxes and utility rates are the parts of the cost of living that they have complete control over, and they are increasing at rates far above the rate of inflation. If you want to provide input to the commission, you can email them at email@example.com (keep in mind that all emails are public records), call them at 352-334-5016, or attend the meeting. The final vote on the budget will be held during a meeting on September 26.
Photo credit: Famartin