City of Savannah working with $10 million surplus

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Expect some fireworks at Thursday's Savannah City Council meeting over something that would normally be cause for celebration: a $10 million budget surplus.

There will likely be two very different camps on how that money should be spent.

We typically see a surplus of $1-2 million year to year, if that, but this year, the city was conservative with its budgeting and can now use the $10 million to cover some of the budget offices priorities.

Some of the larger line items recommended to take surplus cash are a $2.5 million transfer to reserves and general fund balance, $2 million to the Cultural Arts Center Overrun, $1 million to the Montgomery Street Redirection, and to pay off $1.4 million of debt from the fairground purchase.

While commending the city manager's plan for being forward thinking, First District Alderman Van Johnson has a much different vision for the direction of the extra dollars.

"We took money from the people. We need to return it back to the people," Alderman Johnson said.

Alderman Johnson is talking about the newly implemented fire fee. The city set aside $400,000 to help taxpayers out who might have a hard time paying the new fee and rolled back the millage rate. Johnson thinks the surplus presents a perfect opportunity to do more.

"Perhaps this influx of money can help us give them the time they need, to answer these types of questions, and maybe we can find a way to really help people that are tenants to be able to afford  the increase that is given by that."

Alderman Johnson says funneling the surplus funds into non-profits that had city aid cut or reduced this year is another option.

"I think we have to be big boys and girls and make some tough decisions. I think there are some, I mean, Step Up Savannah we created, and to me as a collaborative umbrella organization, Step Up Savannah should not be fighting with organizations that this umbrella is over, for funds."

None of the 12 recommendations from the budget office are reoccurring costs.

The discussion on what to do with the surplus will start early Thursday. We'll bring you the latest on what is decided.

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