Updated at 4:21 p.m.
Gainesville Regional Utilities’ (GRU) possible acquisition of the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC) may have a negative effect on Alachua County Public Schools.
Robert Hyatt, chairman of the Alachua County School Board, penned a letter to Mayor Lauren Poe Monday detailing the ways the sale could negatively affect public schools.
In the letter, Hyatt explained his concern that the city’s purchase of the GREC — and its consequent removal from the tax rolls — could have an “enormous effect” on the revenues of Alachua County Public Schools.
“Based on this year’s tax rolls and millage rates,” Hyatt wrote, “our Department of Business Services estimates the district would have lost nearly $2.4 million in revenue for the current fiscal year had GREC been off the tax rolls.”
Among loss of revenues, Hyatt also wrote the mayor to consider how the timing of the deal will affect the public school system.
“If [the sale] occurs before the Property Appraiser certifies the tax roll in July, the Florida Department of Education would use the revised tax roll to calculate the district’s Required Local Effort (RLE),” Hyatt wrote. “That is the millage rate we must charge local property owners to receive state funding, and it is adjusted each year based on each county’s tax roll, among other factors.”
If the sale takes place after the July certification, the RLE won’t be adjusted until next year and the public school system will experience a loss of revenue for the 2017-18 fiscal year, according to Hyatt’s letter. He estimates this could result in a yearly loss of $1 million in funding.
While Hyatt and the rest of the School Board acknowledged that Mayor Poe and his fellow commissioners must do what’s best for Gainesville as a whole, they expressed hope that the needs of the public school system will be taken into account.
In a statement to WUFT News, GRU General Manager Ed Bielarski said that GRU was aware of the School Board’s situation.
“Because this purchase affects so many parties, we are meeting with the City Commission regularly and meeting with the County Commission this evening,” Bielarski said. “We also are aware that closing prior to July would impact the 2017-18 school year and currently are anticipating a post-July closing date.”