SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Day one of the annual City of Savannah budget retreat is in the books.
The three day retreat is an opportunity for the city manager and bureau chiefs, along with the budget and research staff for the city to highlight and explain certain aspects of the proposed 2016 budget.
This year's budget retreat is being held in rural Effingham County, at the Ebenezer Retreat Center, in part to remove council members and city staff from the distractions they might otherwise face while in Savannah.
The budget staff is taking notes as council members make suggestions and ask questions about the $364 million 2016 budget proposal, and five year capital plan budget. The $364 million proposed budget is drawn from sales tax, property tax and fees gathered by the city.
"Public safety is the greatest priority. And council has made it perfectly clear that they wish for the resources to be devoted to enhanced public safety efforts," said Savannah City Manager Stephanie Cutter. "The 2016 budget continues that with 15 additional police officers, really to focus on street-level and drug dealings."
That enhanced public safety focuses not only on infrastructure, like improving street lighting and adding security cameras, but also adding 15 new firefighter positions and 15 new police department positions.
"We are increasing the overall staff by 15. And those officers will be assigned to the UNIT, the undercover street drugs unit. And we'll be attacking violent crime," said SCMPD Chief Jack Lumpkin.
Chief Lumpkin added they are still focusing on filling about 50 vacancies within the department right now. And Chief Lumpkin says those 15 officers with the UNIT will be equipped to combat organized crime, gangs and drug sales.
"If they are taking out criminals with guns each day of the week, we can stop these crimes. If we can keep them in jail, those who are actually carrying firearms, and are felons, then we can stop the violence," said Chief Lumpkin.
Chief Lumpkin will be addressing council at the retreat Thursday, and also elaborating on the stop gun violence campaign currently underway.
A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held next Tuesday, the 24th. The anticipated date of the budget being passed is Dec. 10th.