Savannah, GA – (WSAV) There is a ray of hope for dozens of social service and cultural programs set to lose funding in Savannah’s proposed 2017 budget. City Manager, Rob Hernandez, tells News 3 work is underway to revise the spending plan to include some of the monies cut from the fiscal plan presented at the first public hearing December 8. It’s good news for those organizations and agencies that are scrambling to make up for the funding that would be lost under the initial budget proposal Hernandez presented to the Mayor and city council. “We had to make reductions across the board, so i don’t want anyone to think that non-profit agencies, cultural arts agencies, were singled out because that’s not the case. You know we had to cut over, close to $16 million dollars worth of spending across the organization this year.” said Hernandez.
The cuts to the Savannah Social Services Grants programs reduced the recommended allocation of $656,150 dollars to $452,690 dollars. It’s a 31 percent reduction. Cultural contributions by the city were slashed as well. Hernandez says the revisions have been ordered by the city council, who asked staff to give them options to restore funding. He would only identify one of the agencies under consideration to have their municipal grants restored. The Coastal Children’s Advocacy Center is on the short list of organizations to have their grants funded. Initially, the center’s $23,850 dollars grant request was denied. Executive Director, Rose Grant-Robinson, says that denial would have a direct impact on public safety. The Coastal Children’s Advocacy Center is the site where law enforcement from across the region utilizes a forensic interview room. It’s where they bring children who are the victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or even witnesses to violent crime, for interviews about what they saw or endured. Robinson says it takes specialized training and a non-threatening environment to make children comfortable enough to tell their story. Robinson says the center served more than 240 children last year and more than half of them were 11 years old or younger. Their grant request is a vital piece of their budget. “We need it to provide services for these kids to make sure that they are healthy and whole again. We want them to be able to know that there is a safe place to come and also because the police department, because this police department is for us as well.” Robinson said.
Hernandez does say that the Children’s Advocacy Center is among those recommended for to have funding restored, but it will ultimately be up to city council to decide to include them in the budget. It’s one of the options Hernandez and staff are making available to the city council. “I’m giving them options, a variety of options should they decide to restore funding. they’ll have the ability to do so, but those decisions are, um, are not without consequences as well. we don’t have money laying around and so in order to restore, we’ve got to take it from someplace else.” Hernandez said.
There is no word from Hernandez about which departments would lose funding in order to give monies to social service and cultural organizations. The revised budget proposals are expected to be released late this week. The final public hearing for Savannah’s budget proposal is set for Thursday, December 22nd, 2017. That’s when leaders are expected to vote on the $378.1 million dollar budget for next year. A balanced budget must be passed by December 31, 2016.