Penny tax proves to be valuable for Savannah, Chatham County

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
Total SPLOST money given to city of Savannah since 1985 (Source: WTOC)
Total SPLOST money given to city of Savannah since 1985 (Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Savannah city leaders say money from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax - or SPLOST - dollars is more important than most people realize. Without that funding, the city would miss out on major improvements.

Next year, Chatham County voters will decide whether to continue with the one percent tax. The mayor says the importance of these projects can't be overstated. Think about the Truman. Think about the President Street improvements.

In a meeting Wednesday, a few council members seem concerned that some projects are put on the back burner for years.

Whether it's the ribbon cutting at a new police precinct, shovels in the ground at another, or a new road to ease traffic issues, Savannah city leaders say evidence of your tax dollars is everywhere.

"We wouldn't have the Truman. We wouldn't have DeLoach Parkway. We wouldn't have the jail," said District 4 Alderman, Julian Miller.

The projects are all funded by SPLOST dollars. The mayor says without this money, our city and county would be decades behind.

"We would absolutely be 20 years back," Mayor Eddie DeLoach said.

Wednesday morning, city leaders got an update on the six cycles of SPLOST since 1985. All told, more than half a billion dollars have been directed to the city of Savannah. Council members Tony Thomas and Estella Shabazz both expressed worry over the fact that some projects have yet to be done. They pointed to others that took years.

"We've got to do and follow through with the projects in a timely manner and not take years and years and decades," said Alderwoman Dr. Estella Shabazz.

The mayor looked at it a little differently.

"The way I would look at it is, is the glass half full or is the glass half empty? We have completed 95 percent of those projects," Mayor Deloach said.

A big point to come out of Wednesday's meeting: communication has to be better. The mayor admitted the city has been terrible at telling taxpayers how the city is spending money.

"Never heard of it before today," one Chatham County taxpayer said.

"Now that you explained it to me, it's very important," another resident said.

It's that kind of thing council members want to change.

"If people don't know we're doing this, then they're not going to be able to support it," Miller said.

The SPLOST vote has gotten between 55-60 percent support the last two times it came up. City leaders are hopeful voters continue to support it. Voting for SPLOST 7 is county-wide and will be on the 2019 ballot.

Improvements to Derenne Avenue are a big SPLOST project people have been keeping an eye on. The mayor says the big hang-up here is the process you have to go through to get federal funding. This project will not be done without that money. The city has set aside $11 million. The rest of the cost will be covered by state and federal dollars.

Another big SPLOST project is the Arena. The city hopes to break ground on that project in the next year or two. Recently, the council approved hiring a project manager.

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