Last town hall held ahead of Savannah budget vote

Last town hall held ahead of Savannah budget vote
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - At least one member of Savannah's city council believes there will be an approved budget by the end of Thursday's council meeting.

Alderman Bill Durrence held the last town hall meeting Wednesday before the budget vote. The main talking point at all of them has been the proposed fire fee.

At this point, it seems the fee is likely to pass. The city manager admitted it's unpopular because no one wants to pay more money in taxes or fees. He said it's important now to educate people. The purpose of the town hall was simple - educate people on the fire fee and its necessity in this year's budget.

"I want people that have maybe not gotten quite the right information, they've misunderstood information, or haven't gotten any information, to have the opportunity to understand," said 2nd District Alderman Bill Durrence.

The city manager joined Durrence at the town hall for a presentation on the fire fee, how city leaders arrived at this solution, and why it's important for the budget.

"It's never popular to raise fees or taxes, but the bottom line is - these services that the city provides that our residents tell us they want, cost money," Hernandez said.

Hernandez says the opposition to the fire fee doesn't surprise him. He used the meeting to show what life without this fire fee looks like. Without the funding from the fee, Hernandez said they wouldn't be able to hire new police officers, some firefighters would be fired, and valuable upgrades to infrastructure and the aesthetics of the city would not be done.

"In order for us to maintain the service level and meet the demands of our residents and businesses, we have to generate more revenue," he said. "It's not like we're trying to rush this budget through. We're not. We've been at this for a while."

Durrence said the decision to implement a fire fee comes down to one simple fact - the city must generate more money.

"We can't have everything and pay less," Durrence said.

It's a reality many homeowners don't like, but one they likely won't be able to avoid.

Council will vote to approve next year's budget in Thursday's council meeting. If they don't, there will be a special meeting to approve it before Jan. 1.

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