Gainesville City Commissioners voted 4-3 Thursday to approve a tentative budget that includes a property tax increase.
In addition to the increase in property taxes, there was also a recent decision to increase utility electric rates. Fire assessment fees will also increase to $133 per fire protection unit.
Gainesville homeowners can expect to see an 11.5 percent increase to their property taxes, as well as a 6.4 percent increase for utility electric rate, starting on Oct.1. The increase in property taxes can cost homeowners an extra $82 or more a year depending on the current value of their home.
After almost an hour of debating, an increase of the millage rate was also increased to 5.2974, which is up .55 mills from the 2018-2019 fiscal year. This rate cannot be increased but can be lowered at the commission’s requests. This will bring in an additional $3.7 million to the City of Gainesville.
The motion to increase the millage failed the first time around with a vote of 4-3, but Commissioner Gail Johnson changed her mind and called for an immediate revote, which passed 4-3.
Mayor Lauren Poe took responsibility for the motion not being passed the first time. He said that he must figure out what he is doing wrong and that he will try to be better for the next budget cycle.
“It happened under my leadership both times. It never happened when I wasn’t mayor,” Poe said. “I’m incredibly disappointed that we are where we are right now.”
Commissioner Gigi Simmons voted against the millage rate because she believed that there was something that the City Commission can do other than asking more of taxpayers.
“I believe early on I suggested that if this is something that we’re going to consider doing, let’s set up a fund or let’s set aside some money to help people with their light bills, their utility bills,” Simmons said while explaining why she voted against the millage rate.
Commissioners Harvey Ward and David Arreola, who also voted in dissent, suggested that the commission should make cuts to its budgets. These cuts include new commissioner initiatives and lowering the General Fund Transfer from GRU to the city budget.
The commission will finalize the tentative budget in September.