Government Utility Authority Overview
Government Utility Authorities: Florida’s got ‘em, we want ‘em. Here’s what they do and why it matters in Texas. We have special purpose districts in Texas, but not quite like Florida’s. What we’re proposing is a more direct and simple way for governments to cooperatively work together in forming a single-purpose government authority. One that prevents cross-collateralization between participating entities, serves as a vehicle for moving privately held utilities and stand-alone services to a single-purpose government (a public subdivision of the state) and provides services statewide. Most importantly, our idea allows for retained local government control and a simplified process to allow partnering entities to exit at any time.
Government Utility Authorities are used across the country in a variety of ways. Transportation. Education. Stormwater. Resilience. The application is used liberally within and among local governments, particularly on sustainable big issues and big projects. Like water.
Florida developed a specific framework of law to support the establishment of the water authority. Yes, California has had them for years, but they are often seemingly separate from the government that comprises their boards. And California is different, not just because of Western water law. Developing new and alternative supplies is an extra challenge. That’s how they ended up with recycled water. It was the choice of last resort. But, they are now a leader in it with public acceptance. They had to.
Texas is a leader in recycling water as well. But so far, the efforts have been led by governments or individual utilities.
How do Authorities Work?
What an Authority does is create a platform for governments to work collectively to acquire small private systems and bring them to regulated standards. Authorities in Florida have sometimes had members transfer facilities to the Authority, sometimes not. Some Authorities are for planning (or defending natural resources), but the Florida Governmental Utility Authority is different. They are a dispersed utility comprised primarily of collections of smaller systems. Over the years, however, some local governments divested facilities while maintaining influence over facility management by selling them to FGUA and typically removing all debt, sometimes gaining cash payments, and mostly, by locking in customer rates.
Such a deal.
What Makes FGUA Different?
Every Authority is different. It's based on the member governments and interlocal agreements. It’s based on the goals set by the board comprised of the member governments. Mostly, local governments invite FGUA to help them with a specific private utility issue. FGUA has been very competitive in acquiring grants and favorable loans for individual systems.
The FGUA has no staff. All services are provided via contract. Every service. Emergencies. Operations. Customer service. Complaints. Each local system pays for the services it receives. None carry “overhead.” As a result, the cost of utility management is “off the books.”
Beyond all that, as a collective, FGUA is highly competitive for state and federal grants because it demonstrates that cooperation is beneficial. And they can look for other grants: grants set aside for small and rural communities.
Water Authorities provide alternative governance like alternative sources to relieve pressure on traditional supplies.
Working Together for a Solution
Texas isn’t Florida by a long shot. We have different attitudes, water sources, ecologies, and economies. What we share is the driving need to more efficiently use our water and find new sources to meet present and future needs. And we need to find a way together because that is the future.
Ready to Learn More About How We Can Help?
With our support, utility providers, end-customers, and communities manage scarce water resources sustainably.
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