SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The Savannah-Chatham Public School System has approved the Chatham County property tax increase.
The 2.25 millage rate increase passed in a 5-4 vote on Wednesday night. Opposing board members were Board President Jolene Byrne, Julie Wade, Michael Johnson, and Shawn Kachmar, who felt the budget could be re-prioritized to avoid a millage increase.
Before the final vote, the school board received a large amount of backlash from community.
"This tax increase is outrageous," said one property owner. "Go back and bring us a budget that fits within the amount of money you have."
"Property owners in Chatham County are being taxed to death," said another.
District six board member, Larry Lower, said the budget has been squeezed the past three years in a row and claimed nothing else could be eliminated. He also said 80 percent of the money in the budget is required and cannot be adjusted.
A large portion of the audience consisted of senior citizens who fought to be exempt from the increase. Several school districts in Georgia, including Dekalb County, provide exemptions for senior citizens on school taxes. The board did not vote to provide an exemption.
"Do you realize it is these very high school graduates who will keep your monthly social security paychecks coming through taxes on their wages?" said district three representative, Cornelia Hall.
One of the items that raised the millage rate is the unpopular City of Savannah fire fee. Even though it is likely the city will vote Thursday to eliminate the fire fee completely, the Savannah Chatham School System says they will use that money to fund other school programs and not lower the millage rate.