Did You Know?
We created this page to answer questions about the November referendum (CS/HB 759) in addition to other topics frequently discussed in public meetings, on social media and with customer service representatives.
House Bill 759/Referendum
What is the November Referendum?
In the November 2018 general election, city residents will vote if GRU should continue to be governed by the Gainesville City Commission or if the utility should be governed by a Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority whose five members are appointed by the City Commission. The measure requires a majority vote. Read CS/HB 759 here.
Who authored the referendum?
Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, has promoted legislation to change GRU governance each year since 2014, when he was a state representative. In 2017, state Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry, joined Perry in putting forth the Senate and House bills. For the second consecutive year, the bill made its way to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk. In 2016, Scott vetoed the bill because it gave independent board members a salary, but Scott signed the 2017 version, which replaced salaries with reimbursement for per diem and travel expenses.
Does GRU support the referendum?
The city opposed CS/HB 759 as it was making its way through the state legislative process; however, once passed, state law prohibits the city from advocating for or against a referendum question, so this document provides only factual responses to questions we have received.
If the referendum passes, when would the new authority start?
Initial terms of members would begin Oct. 1, 2019. One member would serve for one year; another member would serve for two years; a third member would serve for three years; and two members would serve for four years.
If the referendum passes, will I get to elect members to the new authority?
Residents of the City of Gainesville will nominate members based on specific criteria. The City Commission will appoint five members based on those nominations and criteria.
Referendum/General Transfer Fund
What is the General Fund Transfer, or GFT?
The GFT is utilities revenue that is transferred to the City of Gainesville’s General Fund. The General Fund pays for a broad range of city services, including Gainesville’s Fire Department, Police Department, Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs and Public Works.
How much utility revenue is transferred?
In fiscal year 2018, the GFT was about $36.4 million; in fiscal year 2019, the GFT is expected to be $36.9 million.
How would the new governance model impact the GFT?
The utility board is granted authority to lower the GFT by 3 percent a year without approval from the Gainesville City Commission. To compensate for a lower GFT, the City Commission could potentially raise taxes, reduce services or both. The utility board could also increase the GFT.
Why do GRU bills keep going up?
Over the past three years, GRU electric rates have decreased by 14 percent for residential customers and 16 percent for commercial customers. While residential electric rates are now comparable to similar-sized utilities throughout the state, our commercial rates remain the highest in Florida.
We continuously look for ways to reduce costs while maintaining our high standards of service and reliability. GRU’s water, wastewater and natural gas rates are competitive with other statewide utilities. In fact, GRU’s gas rates remain the cheapest in the state.
Why are GRU bills so much higher than Clay Electric or other providers?
GRU is one of a few utilities providing four services: electric, water, wastewater and gas. GRU also bills for the City of Gainesville’s storm water and garbage services. Having up to six services on one bill makes that bill appear high when compared to Clay Electric, which only provides and bills for one service. A customer would have to consolidate all bills from all services to make a real comparison to the bill they receive from GRU.
In addition, many rural customers use well water and septic service, so they don’t pay a provider. This makes bills even more difficult to compare.
Since GRU funds City of Gainesville services with non-city revenues, aren’t non-city residents being taxed without representation?
Just like other Florida utilities, GRU’s profits are returned to its owners to be used in a manner that benefits them. With an investor-owned utility such as Duke Energy, customers pay a utility rate with a profit component. Duke uses these profits to pay dividends to its shareholders or to invest in projects outside Florida. As a municipal utility owned by the city, GRU’s profits are returned directly to city government, which uses the money to fund essential services that impact the entire community.
Does GRU work with customers in distress?
Yes, GRU regularly makes payment arrangements to assist customers whose bills may be higher than expected due to leaks, increased usage or financial hardship. In 2017 alone, we made more than 93,000 payment arrangements.
GRU also currently is piloting its Summer Extension program, which gives customers an automatic seven-day extension on top of our existing seven-day grace period. This program provides customers with more flexibility during months when hot weather often leads to higher-than-normal energy usage.
Why do I pay so much for GRU services?
The residential basket of services GRU provides (electric, water, wastewater and gas) is actually competitively priced, especially when you consider the additional value we add to the environment and community. GRU returns 70 percent of the water pulled out of the aquifer back to the aquifer and has built facilities that remove nitrogen from wastewater, which is healthy for the ecosystem and unique to this area.
- GRU has invested heavily in GRUcom to build out a broadband backbone that supports communications with businesses in the community.
- GRU’s electric generating portfolio is one of the most diverse in the state and relies more and more each year on renewables.
- GRU has built a state-of-the-art electric distribution grid which sustains the community during storms such as Hurricane Irma.
- GRU gives back to the community through partnerships with schools, organizations and charities. In 2017, we raised $104,000 for charities and invested another $77,300 in our community.
Does GRU use alternative energy sources?
Yes, in fact, GRU is a state leader in alternative energy. Since purchasing the Deerhaven Renewable Generating Station (DHR) in November 2017, carbon-neutral biomass fuel has become a major component of our energy portfolio. In fiscal year 2019, biomass will account for 18 percent of our total system load. After Hurricane Irma, we also used storm debris to create biomass fuel.
Does GRU use solar?
GRU provides 199 watts of solar per customer, which, based on an Orlando Sentinel study conducted in July 2017, is second in the state to Gulf Power. The utility continues to explore opportunities to bring affordable solar to its customers and to support the use of alternative energy sources.
Does GRU have a relationship with UF Health Shands?
Yes, GRU provides uninterrupted power to UF Health’s South Campus through its stand-alone South Energy Center (SEC). An innovative micro-grid, the SEC provides all of the electric power, hot water and steam required at the UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital and the UF Health Shands Critical Care Center as well as the UF Health Heart & Vascular Hospital and the UF Health Neuromedicine Hospital. As such, UF is ultimately GRU’s largest customer.
Why doesn’t GRU provide services to UF?
As explained above, GRU provides electric service to UF Health’s South Campus and water and wastewater services to the University of Florida main campus. However, Duke Energy provides electric power to UF’s main campus, not GRU.
If you have any further questions, please call our customer service line at 352-334-3434.