SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - As the City of Savannah looks to shore up spending on special events, community celebrations, and sponsorships, some of the some of the city-sponsored events and holiday gatherings you enjoy could suffer.
City council asked staff to give them options to make up $16 million dollars for this fiscal year in budget amendments instead of implementing a fire fee, and one of the line items included cuts to holiday celebrations.
The city of Savannah made the decision last week that any events they haven't contributed to yet this year would get zeroed out. That decision would free up about $147,000.
WTOC learned during a recent council work session that the city contributes about $8,000 dollars to the firework show for the 4th of July celebration. Since that event has yet to happen, the city is pulling those dollars back. As news of the decision circulated, other firework sponsors pulled out, essentially killing the grand finale of the July 4th celebration on the Savannah River. The Savannah Waterfront Association is hosting the Independence Day celebration this year, starting at noon right here in Morrell Park at the east end of River Street.
"I did not anticipate the Fourth of July this year being on the chopping block. I did think possibly in the future, but I did not anticipate that at this close of a date," said Victoria Smith, Executive Director of the Savannah Waterfront Association. The Association is hosting the Independence Day celebration this year, starting at noon in Morrell Park at the east end of River Street.
For some business leaders and community partners, a Fourth of July without fireworks was not an option.
"It really wasn't a question of whether or not we've got to have a firework show in Georgia's oldest city for Independence Day," said Michael Owens, President and CEO for the Tourism Leadership Council.
Owens says there was an instantaneous outpouring of support from the community. They got about half of the funds needed for the fireworks show, when the Savannah College of Art and Design stepped up and funded the rest. Even Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach chipped in his own money to go toward the 4th of July fireworks show this year.
"They're now the presenting sponsor. And if it wasn't for SCAD, if it wasn't for the hotels, for the restaurants, for the retail shops that jumped in and said let me add to this cause, the Fourth of July wouldn't have happened in this city next week," said Owens.
So while it's crisis averted for the closest, upcoming holiday, others down the road will need similar intervention. That includes holiday decorations on Broughton Street, which cost the City roughly $65,000 dollars.
Alderman Brian Foster says that the City can't continue to be an ATM, and that those types of initiatives need to be covered by the business community while the City focuses on providing public services, infrastructure, and public safety.