Savannah Mayor: Proposal will be made to halve cost of upcoming fire fee

Savannah Mayor: Proposal will be made to halve cost of upcoming fire fee

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach announced at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon that the city council would review a proposal to cut the cost of an upcoming fire fee in half.

"I'll ask the city manager and his staff to prepare a plan, taking advantage of the additional revenues and reductions of expenses. This plan will include a way to cut all fire fee payments by half," DeLoach said.

If approved, the fee will drop from approximately $256 a year to $128 a year for homeowners.

The city has set aside a hardship fund for residents who qualify. DeLoach said the fund will still be available if the new proposal was passed.

His announcement came after months of public input on a fire fee that was approved in December 2017. According to the mayor, the fire fee was wildly unpopular and the city received significant pushback from the public. DeLoach compared it to the public outrage in 2015 over crime in the city.

"I ask that everything be on the table for cuts other than public safety."

The current fire fee is scheduled to begin in September.

DeLoach said the council would discuss the proposal during its budget retreat on June 18. The city's millage rate must be approved by the end of June. The council has two remaining scheduled meetings in June: June 7 and June 21. DeLoach expects the council to set the millage rate at the latter meeting.

The new proposal will include cuts to city government, which the council will discuss as soon as tomorrow (June 7).

"This plan will include difficult cuts felt by the city government and the public," DeLoach said. "With the support of council tomorrow, we will direct the city manager to continue to cut long-term expenses by looking at staffing levels, by eliminating duplication of services - including no less than five percent of non-public safety employees - eliminating unnecessary programs and postpone nonessential capital improvements. I ask that everything be on the table for cuts other than public safety. We needed to explain the process more, and expand citizen and business community involvement. We brought too much change too quickly and should've done a much better job explaining our thought process to residents and the business community. We apologize for letting our zeal to improve the city get ahead of our ability to fund our services."

The mayor said juggling the rising cost of public services with fees and taxation was becoming increasingly more difficult.

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