As expected, Savannah City Council today adopted a controversial new budget for 2018, which includes a hotly contested new Fire Service Fee estimated to cost each household nearly $300, and apply to all nonprofits and public school buildings.
"The cupboard is bare, it's what we had to do, and we had to move forward," Mayor Eddie DeLoach said in explaining the process of arriving at the budget, which includes hikes in other fees and cuts to some services.
Alderpersons Tony Thomas, Van Johnson, and Estella Shabazz voted against.
Thomas said that practical enforcement of the Fire Fee remains unaddressed, and wondered aloud what will happen if a nonprofit just doesn't pay it.
He asked, "If we have another budget shortfall next year, will we have another fee pop up?"
While saying she reluctantly has to accept the funding cuts to her organization in the new budget, Kesha Gibson-Carter of the Rape Crisis Center told Council, "We are an essential service" like the police and fire departments. "You can't exist without us."
In other news, a construction project manager, the firm of Jones, Lang, and LaSalle, was hired for the new Westside Arena project.
Some other interesting news came out of the workshop prior to today's formal Council meeting.
In discussing funding of the new Arena, Alderman Thomas said to City Manager Rob Hernandez, "Can I ask a question? Do we really have enough money to start all this?"
To which Hernandez replied: "To start, yes."
The City Manager then said the City will have to float bonds next year to complete funding the new Arena, only some of which can be funded through the last round of SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax).