Savannah City Council withholds $2 million from special preschool, asks for more details

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Council members decided not to fund a school partnership program during a budget hearing Thursday because they felt like the mayor and superintendent left them in the dark on the details.

The mayor and superintendent have been working on the program for several months, but council members said they just heard about it last week.

The partnership would fund a pre-kindergarten school for 3-year-old students. The program is named the Renaissance Project. It would require a little over $2 million from the city and more than $5 million from the school system.

"We're being asked to contribute $2.2 million for a plan that I have not seen. We have not been able to discuss and really talk about the impact," Alderman Van Johnson said.

Alderman-at-large Brian Foster echoed Johnson's concerns.

"I don't think the timing was right to put aside that much money in our budget right now when we don't have the detailed plan," he said.

Mayor Eddie DeLoach was disappointed after council members decided not to fund the school partnership program. He referenced other efforts by the city to address poverty and crime in the past.

"The needle has not moved in 20 20 years. You can give a whole list in there and they are the same programs that have been here for ages and nothing has changed," Deloach said.

Superintendent Ann Levett spoke on the importance of partnerships Thursday morning but received a lot of pushback on the project.

"I don't think the pushback was about the program itself or the need for a partnership itself. I think it was about areas that I'm not privy to," Levett said.

Several council members are also against it in part because school board members said they too didn't know about it in a meeting Wednesday. Levett is confident board members will support the program in the future.

"There's obviously a need for more information and that information will be provided. This one just takes on a little different flavor based on timing and other factors," said Dr. Levett.

"I'm hoping they consider doing that for mid-year. Hopefully, we can come up with the funding, at least a commitment towards that, that way it'll give the school board and them an idea of where we're going and to see if they can do what they need to do," Mayor DeLoach said.

The council agreed to set aside some funding in a contingency fund and revisit this partnership when the school board has their budget approval next summer. The mayor hopes they approve it then.

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