SAVANNAH, Ga. – While the year might be winding down, matters are heating up inside Savannah’s City Hall.
On Tuesday, the City of Savannah released City Manager Rob Hernandez’s preliminary 2018 budget. The budget is a total of more than $376 million and assumes a general fund in the amount of $187 million. Again, this budget is only preliminary, as it serves as the first step for Savannah City Council to draft and vote on a final budget.
Speaking on the preliminary nature of the budget, City of Savannah Spokesperson Michelle Gavin said, “It does address that 12.9 million dollar budget deficit that the City of Savannah has and it addresses that through cuts with city services and cut in personnel.”
Inside the memo, in order to reach a balanced budget, there are plans for eliminating 200 city positions, implementing a hiring freeze, and increase fees for summer camp.
While Gavin admits, “This is not an ideal budget,” she told News 3. This current proposal does not include any new funding sources.
“What this does not include is any new fees, a millage increase, or any other new revenue streams the city council has the option to consider.”
Another option council is consider a fire fee.
Savannah Alderman Van Johnson says he is a proponent of the fire fee but says now is not the time to implement it.
“Less than two months before the new year starts. We’re telling our citizens. We’re telling our non-profits partners. We’re telling schools and educational organizations you’re getting ready to pay these fees,” Johnson said.
Johnson says while the city has financial issues, some of those issues are self-imposed.
“This merger is costing us money and once we get out of Disneyland and figure that out then we can go ahead and address the fact you don’t save money by de-merging,’ Johnson said. “We’re actually spending more money. This is a disservice to our community.”
Johnson says he is for keeping programs that fight crime. Some programs are cut in this preliminary budget.
“We don’t want anyone to be afraid right now or look this preliminary budget as a done deal. This is a starting point, no decisions have been made on what services have been cut,” Gavin said.
Savannah City Council is set to attend a budget retreat from November 30- December 1 to come to a consensus on the 2018 budget. A first reading and vote is set for December 7 with the final vote set for December 21.
The new balanced budget is set to go into effect on January 1, 2018.
Those who would like to express their opinions and thoughts on the preliminary budget are encouraged to call their alderman or Mayor DeLoach.