City Council approves 2011 budget despite concerns

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Savannah City Council finally reached agreement on the 2011 budget late Thursday afternoon. It was not without heated debate and public concern.

The budget will eliminate more than 75 positions in the City of Savannah government, as well as merge the Savannah Film Office with Leisure Services, moving it to Daffin Park away from downtown. City officials did agree to keep two film office employees, after an original proposed reduction to only one.

The Savannah Development and Renewal Authority was also cut, losing more than 60 percent of it's funding. The budget was sliced more than half, from and original budget request of $613,000 to $250,000.

Thursday morning, in an attempt to save funding, SDRA officials submitted a compromise agreement to restore funding to $390,000, as well committing to work with council on restructuring and an audit to be completed by the end of January, 2011.

The public was given one last chance to plead their case to save both the film office and SDRA from cuts.

"I am down on my knees begging you do not cut the funding for the SDRA and the film office. They are the hardest working people we have, besides council and the mayor," Mike Lepper, Savannah, told the council.

The begging, and compliments, appeared to fall on deaf ears. An attempt at passing the compromise for SDRA by Alderman Jeff Felser, supported by Mary Ellen Sprague, and Clifton Jones, who was not present after suffering a pin stroke last week, was voted down.

The budget was then passed unanimously.

Also affected by the budget, a cut to previously approved SPLOST projects, including Grayson Stadium, a new arena, and the Cultural Arts Center.

However, the budget does grant a two percent cost of living increase for city employees.

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