SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - This week, Savannah budgeting staff finalized a proposed budget for next year.
They showed it to city council members Friday at the annual budget retreat. The proposed budget totals $425 million.
The $425 million budget proposal is balanced even with a .34 millage property tax decrease. It also includes a $9 million increase for a new pay structure.
That’s the result of the pay and comp study completed this year that will increase salaries for city employees, making the government more competitive when it comes to recruiting and retention.
“I would definitely say, this is a human capital, this is about employees," said Melissa Carter, chief budget officer for Savannah. "This spending plan is definitely about employees. And with that being about employees, it undoubtedly is about enhancing service delivery. Because we’re a service organization at the end of the day.”
Carter called the proposed budget conservative, adding her staff looked longer term to prepare for any economic hurdles on the horizon.
“We are anticipating another economic downturn in the next 18 months. However, we have built-in provisions in this spending plan that will support, and not only support that new workforce plan, but also sustain it. That meant we had to make other adjustments elsewhere,” Carter said.
Carter pointed out the city’s capital investment plan took one of the bigger hits to support the personnel enhancements.
Carter explained the last Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax cycle, SPLOST 6, is on track to outperform expectations. Meaning the city could get $15 million that could go toward the new arena.
But if Council brings up any significant changes either on their own or on behalf of the public, it would be back to the drawing board for budget staff given just how much they’re looking to invest in the new pay structure.
“Because our personnel costs make up 60 percent of our overall expenditure base, it’s going to be very tough to make sizeable adjustments,” said Carter.
When it was time to open up the meeting for the council to ask questions and make suggestions, no specific 2020 proposed budget adjustments, Alderman Julian Miller asked where public pushback might come from.
“The only backlash I’ve heard so far are the community partnerships from a couple of the groups that did not get funding, which probably together totals $50,000. That’s not in there,” said City Manager Pat Monahan.
Budget staff is proposing setting aside $830,000 to go toward fighting homelessness, poverty reduction and public safety.
There will be two public hearings before council votes on whether or not to adopt the budget Dec. 5.