Savannah City Council passes 2017 budget, some arts funding restored

Savannah City Council passes 2017 budget, some arts funding restored

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - After several weeks of consideration, the Savannah City budget for 2017 has been approved.

But since the budget retreat, which highlighted cuts across the board, recipients of some of those reductions have been speaking out.

Groups from the cultural arts community and social services in Savannah say they were blind-sided weeks ago when it was revealed sweeping cuts were being proposed by the city for the upcoming budget.

So just like the last council meeting, members and supporters from both social services and cultural arts spoke Thursday to try and convince council the funds originally asked for are still needed. City Manager Rob Hernandez gave city council five options, four of those alternatives that would restore funding, but take away from other areas.

The option council settled on to restore several hundred thousand back into non-profits was eliminating three new positions in the city manager's office meant to enhance development-related services.

"Would I have loved to have had the funding in place for those other initiatives? Absolutely. But I also understand the financial situation that we are in, and we have to balance all of our priorities. Clearly, funding for arts agencies and social service agencies are a priority for this council and this community. And it is for us as well," said Hernandez.

Council ultimately decided on an option that will restore the funding for some non-profit cultural arts groups and social services, but only to the 2016 level, not what they had originally asked for. The chair of the city-appointed cultural arts commission spoke out against that decision at Thursday's meeting.

"This I cannot support, because it ignores a year's worth of change, includes organizations that did not apply this year, and does not include several new exciting organizations and youth-oriented events. As you consider your budget here today, I urge you to adopt the cultural affairs commission recommendations for 2017," said Cultural Arts Commission Chairman Raymond Gaddy.

Hernandez added just because this budget was approved doesn't mean amendments can't be made throughout the year because over the year they might gain revenue that they had not necessarily expected.

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