Susan Bottcher: Fact vs. fiction in Gainesville annexation debate
Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 5:53 p.m.
It is important that voters in Precinct 22 have the facts about annexation's impacts before voting on April 9.
Unfortunately, a flier opposing annexation was circulated containing misleading statements about annexation.
Here are the facts in response to that flier:
"City property taxes are already 1 mil higher than county taxes" — FACT: After totaling the changes that annexation causes to utility rates, tax rates and fees, some households will see a reduced total cost ($10 to $25 per month) for government services, some will see an increase ($10 to $25 per month) and many will break even. Please call the city at 334-5032 to get a detailed analysis of what the impact will be for you.
"Problems with the biomass plant will raise GRU bills and taxes" — FACT: Since the surcharge on county Gainesville Regional Utilities customers' utility bills disappears if they become city residents, these customers will unequivocally see a reduction in their GRU bill. Later this year when the biomass plant comes online, all city and county GRU customers can expect a 1 cent/KWh increase in their electric bill, regardless of annexation. For low-income GRU customers there are payment assistance programs available. Visit www.gru.com for more information.
"Fire assessment fee..." — FACT: 57 percent of properties inside the city are not taxable so 43 percent of city residents are subsidizing the fire/EMS services delivered in Gainesville. Additionally, voters statewide chose to cut property taxes, which further reduced revenues that support fire/EMS services. The fire assessment fee applies equitably to all properties and helps keep Gainesville Fire Rescue's ISO rating at an admirable 3. Incidentally, applications are being taken now through May 1 for the fire services hardship assistance program for seniors 65 and older and low-income residents. Visit www.gfr.org for more information.
"Many new City regulations and fees" — Homeowners living in neighborhoods with deed restrictions or convenances already live under stricter regulations (and have fees imposed) by their homeowner associations than the city's codes. City code enforcement serves to uphold the integrity of single-family neighborhoods, which protects property values and the high quality of life for our residents.
"Sheriff Darnell and IAFF Union oppose annexation" — Neither the Gainesville Police Department nor the city International Association of Fire Fighters have taken an official position on this, nor were they involved in authoring or disseminating the anti-annexation fliers. Fire service in and outside annexation areas will not change. The city and county have an agreement that if a county fire station exists within the annexation area, those employees would be absorbed into GFR. Since 2000, there have been dozens of voluntary annexations and to date no deputies were fired and the Alachua County Sheriff's Office budget has not been cut.
Other advantages to becoming a city resident include free trees through the Tree-mendous program, street sweeping, neighborhood policing and mosquito control. GFR offers city residents free home fire safety inspections and Project Get Alarmed (free smoke detectors). Finally, Gainesville residents can serve on the city's various citizens advisory boards and to vote in city elections.
For more information, visit www.CityofGainesville.org/annexation.
Susan Bottcher is Gainesville city commissioner for District 3.