Savannah City Council meets for annual budget retreat

Savannah City Council meets for annual budget retreat

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The second day of Savannah City Council’s annual budget retreat is wrapped up for the day with more work left to do before they adopt the proposed $414 million budget for 2021.

The proposed 2021 budget aims to hold the line, so to speak, according to Savannah’s Office of Management and Budget Director Melissa Carter. Once the impacts of COVID-19 on Savannah’s economy and way of life started to become apparent, the city’s budget and finance teams took action.

Throughout city government, departments started implementing spending controls internally, challenging employees to find other ways to do more with less. That practice and mindset has helped the city from having to dip into emergency reserve funds throughout the pandemic, and avoid layoffs and furloughs of city employees, which would ultimately lead to a reduction in city services.

“I say, going into the 2021 year is very cautionary. And the spending plan I think is going to be guaranteed to have adjustments on a quarterly basis all throughout the year. Because, just because the COVID pandemic subsides in 2021, and we’re hoping that’s the case, it will be years for our economy to rebound,” Carter said.

Council will meet next Tuesday via ZOOM for a budget workshop.

Both police and fire departments have yet to share with Council their budgets and proposed initiatives for 2021, and overviews of city capital projects and enterprise funds still have to be discussed.

That’s now scheduled for the virtual budget workshop next Tuesday.

“It’s very cautionary. This budget that we have managed to establish, and hopefully council will make their adjustments and make it their own. But we cannot shirk the fact that there’s limited funding,” said Carter.

Council will continue to discuss items that were tabled during the two day retreat, sidelined because of time constraints.

“Determining whether somebody gets a thousand more or two thousand here, again that’s a part of the political process that council does. And ultimately it has to be five votes. I suspect there will be a lot of jockeying back and forth, that’s just a part of the process,” said Mayor Van Johnson.

Part of that process will also include deciding on recommended grants for Savannah non-profits, cultural and art programs. Council is set to adopt the budget on December 10, but legally they have until December 31 to do so.

If you live in Savannah, you could soon pay a little more for water, sewer and sanitation services.

Savannah’s budget team is proposing to Council an incremental rate increase for customers that will come to about 95-cents more a month for water, sewer and sanitation to help keep maintenance and operations intact, as well as enhance services.

“The incremental rate increase will also largely provide additional resources, both staffing and capital equipment. Trucks, compacts, refuse disposal, for our recycling, our litter, our yard waster collection as well as bulk item pickup,” explained Carter.

Carter added had we not been in a pandemic, city staff’s recommended rate increase would have been double what it is now.

Again, the rate increase is proposed at this point.

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