GA State House budget leaves out consolidation study money

Updated: Mar. 9, 2018 at 5:43 PM EST
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CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - The Georgia State House didn't offer any money to pay for the study needed to examine consolidating Chatham County and the City of Savannah.

The study will cost a reported $200,000. Now, it's all up to the Senate to fund and approve it.

This makes it a long shot without their help. Representative Ron Stephens has told us in the past he was confident it would be in this year's budget. After being nixed at the last minute last year, our local delegation thought this would be the year. We asked Stephens if this would remain a priority of his.

"You can bet. I've always been a believer in less government," Stephens saod. "Duplication of services is a problem. We've got duplication of services; a lot of it."

Senator Lester Jackson said he will now move this study on up on his budget proposal list. He fully expected the House to fund it.

Representative Stephens wanted to see the study results just to see the feasibility and possible cost savings for taxpayers. Stephens said confusion from some folks who wanted a study to incorporate the islands killed this effort.

The city and county both supported the study. The Chamber of Commerce also listed it on their list of legislative priorities this year.

To be clear, for this to have a chance, the Senate will now have to approve the funding in their budget. The item would then go to a conference for debate to be included in the final budget.

Consolidation is much different than incorporation and annexation. With a consolidation, taxpayers only pay for one government. With incorporation and annexation, taxpayers pay for two governments as well as city and county taxes.

Incorporation is what Skidaway Island is looking to do. They want to become their own city. Should that happen, taxpayers will pay Skidaway taxes and Chatham County taxes.

Annexation was never part of the equation in Chatham County. There has been some confusion that the City of Savannah is trying to annex the unincorporated areas, forcing the unincorporated residents to pay city taxes, but that is not the case.

The push for consolidation is coming at the state level. State lawmakers want to reduce the number of governments so taxpayers only pay for one. The idea behind consolidation is reducing the number of government agencies that taxpayers are paying for.

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