Funds requested to study merged government in Chatham County

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - We've learned the Chatham County Delegation has already made its formal request to the state of Georgia to fund a $200,000 study to look at whether it would be feasible to merge city and county governments in Chatham County.

These efforts are being fueled by the city and county's on-going dispute over who should pay for what, including the cost to share the police department, which led to the demerger.

State lawmakers are fed up because they believe tax dollars are being wasted by having separate governments. Right now, there are eight city and counties in Georgia that are merged and many of them consolidated because the very issues we are seeing here over cost share and resources.

By law, the state of Georgia must conduct a study first to determine if it's feasible.

It's a $200,000 study that UGA's Carl Vincent Institute of Government is slated to conduct if the funding is approved. We learned Monday that Rep. Ron Stephens put in a request for $50,000 from the state house. A $50,000 request was also requested from the Senate. And if those requests are granted, our sources confirm that the Savannah Economic Development Authority, SEDA, will match it with the other $100,000 needed.

This comes after the Savannah Area Chamber listed the study as being one of their top priorities on their 2018 legislative agenda.

Rep. Stephens said last month that having multiple agencies and departments in charge of the same services is inefficient and wasting tax dollars.

"The city of Macon, they cut their taxes five percent per year and they eliminated their city tax altogether. That's our end goal is to save taxpayer dollars," Rep. Stephens said.

Appropriation meetings begin next week. Rep. Stephens has said he's confident they are going to get the money.

If and when that happens, it will take six months to conduct the study. And if the study recommends consolidating, Chatham County voters will get the final say on the ballot in 2019.

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