The Alachua County Labor Coalition held a press conference Tuesday to raise an alarm about a looming Gainesville Regional Utility Authority board action that could result in numerous city services losing funding.
The GRU Authority is set to discuss and take action at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday related to the government services contribution (GSC) — a pot of money given to the city’s general budget from the utility each year.
The GSC was decreased by 55.4% for fiscal year 2024, a reduction of $19 million, to help pay down some of the $315 million of GRU debt. The change forced the city to raise taxes, cut over 100 jobs and increase utility rates for next year.
Now, the GRU Authority board is discussing even more cuts to the GSC. Wednesday’s agenda shows the board being presented with two primary options: slash the contribution in half, or get rid of it entirely, said ACLC Coordinator Bobby Mermer.
“GRU Authority members said multiple times at the last meeting that they need to do was in the best fiscal interest of the utility and that they need to do what’s best for ratepayers,” he said. “The best thing for ratepayers, considering that the vast majority of ratepayers live in the city of Gainesville, is to not cut the GSC that our budget relies on to provide essential services to this community.”
In December City Manager Cynthia Curry sent a memo warning of the cuts general government will have to make if the GSC is slashed.
Curry said that the baseline cuts will be applied evenly across all departments of the city. This could mean dramatic cuts in public safety departments including $4 million from police and $3 million from fire, inevitably leading to more layoffs in these areas.
The memo also states that outside agency funding will be reduced to zero. This indicates that outside entities such as GRACE Marketplace, the Early Learning Coalition, the Hippodrome and many more Gainesville cultural staples may completely lose funding.
“I’m worried about my constituents,” said Commissioner Bryan Eastman, who spoke at the press conference Tuesday. “With the loss of this we’re going to be a much less vibrant, less wealthy community. The taxpayers are going to have to pick that up, or what they can expect their local government to be doing is going to get hit.”