GRU rates to be higher than expected

The Gainesville City Commission approved the fiscal year 2013-2014 Gainesville Regional Utilities budget, which will see a rise in both individual and business rates, on Monday night.

The changes will go into effect on Oct. 1, 2013, and last through Sept. 30, 2014. The proposed budget has been fiercely debated since it was first put forward in July. The budget passed 4-2, with Mayor Ed Braddy and Commissioner Todd Chase dissenting.

GRU says that the changes are due to declining sales and the addition of the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center biomass plant. GRU has tried to control costs by refinancing existing debts and cutting the original proposed 2014 budget by $10.8 million.

The price changes are slightly higher than what was proposed in July. Two months ago, residential electric rates were set to rise only $12.48, and business rates would only rise an average of less than 11 percent. The difference in rates is the result of requests for changes to the budget plan by the city commission.

Proposed residential electric prices will increase by about $13.50; water by about $2.50; natural gas by about $.20; and wastewater by almost a dollar.

Electric costs to business customers are expected to increase an average of 12.5 percent. Natural gas prices will drop by about 12 percent for customers using 50 therms or less per month. Customers using 300 therms or more will likely see a 1.8 percent increase. Water and wastewater business customers using 30 kgals per month will see increases of 1.5 and 1.1 percent, respectively, to cover rising fixed costs in those systems.

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