City employee raises, drainage projects included in Savannah’s 2024 budget proposal

Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 5:36 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - How will the City of Savannah spend your tax dollars?

That was the topic of a marathon hearing Tuesday as leaders look over next year’s proposed budget.

$560 million. That’s how much is proposed in Savannah’s 2024 budget. That’s nearly $70 million more than this year’s.

City leaders say this proposal doesn’t have any tax rate increases, but you might soon have to pay more for some utilities.

“It means what our priorities are, the things that are important to us. How we’re going to address the things that are important to our residents for the coming year,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said.

Among the proposal’s key points is $13 million for city employee pay increases, including police and fire staff.

If approved, the average city employee salary would go from $47,000 to $54,000 a year.

“I don’t think that because you choose to work for a public agency, that it means you have to work for poverty wages. Every single employee we have can obviously make more in the private sector, and we have to be able to stop that,” Mayor Johnson said.

Also included in the budget proposal is $3 million for drainage improvements, $6 million for street and sidewalk projects, plus $12 million for neighborhood mobility and housing support.

Savannah residents may also have to pay more for some basic city services.

The proposed budget calls for a small increase in consumption charges for water and sewer bills, meaning an impact of $1.95 each month for a median household.

Monthly residential sanitation service rates are also proposed to go up three percent.

In a letter to council members, City Manager Jay Melder says the budget aims to combat rising costs and a tight labor market.

City budget leaders credit tax revenue growth and impact fees for the proposed budget increase.

“What we’re doing in this budget proposal is recognizing on the growth that we’ve experienced since the Covid years and also planning for the future,” Chief Budget Officer Melissa Carter said.

Following Tuesday’s budget hearing, there will be public hearings on the proposal at the next two city council meetings before leaders are expected to vote on it Dec. 7.