SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Savannah City Council is taking time to hear directly from their constituents ahead of their budget retreat later this week.
One hot topic: the fire fee proposal. City leaders say it's practically unavoidable. The proposed fee will cost hundreds of dollars and has some District 4 residents heated.
"Moving money out of the millage rate and making it a fee is still a tax," one resident said.
"It's a lot of money for the elderly community that we have and the poverty community. I just think we should start at $100; start at $150."
City Manager Rob Hernandez fielded questions from multiple people and says something has to be done to make up the multimillion-dollar budget deficit. When it comes to the proposed fire fee, he points out a large problem.
"Eleven percent of properties in the city don't pay anything. Zero, nada, zilch," Hernandez said.
Hernandez says the alternatives to a fire fee won't be viewed favorably by property owners.
"Fifty thousand or so properties or so that do pay taxes and raising their taxes or cutting service."
One woman says if property owners are being asked to redo their finances, city leaders should too when it comes to big-ticket items like surveys and consultants.
"When you sit down to look at your budget, will you promise to look at cutting spending,' Pam Miller asked.
With multiple massive projects planned, locals say we need to hit the pause button.
"While we want to do these grandiose things, maybe we can't afford all of them."
The proposed fire fee will be no more than $370 a year for a single-family home, regardless of the home's value or income of the owner.