Savannah’s new Fire Fee: Burden, boondoggle or both?
I want to bring to the attention of Savannah citizens some clear and simple facts concerning the impact of the fire fee on residents and further question its necessity based on an analysis of the 2018 Budget as adopted by City Council. (Available at https://www.savannahga.gov/DocumentCenter/View/14317/2018-Adopted-Budgetrevised)
Impact: Whether it is defined as a fee or tax, the increase will be a burden for residents and businesses alike.
The fee dramatically and disproportionately will impact lower wealth residents and, of course, the non-profit and religious sector who presently are not taxed. To illustrate this point: if a homeowner’s house at 2017 tax rate was worth $100,000 their city tax bill, per city report on page 47 of the budget book, was 459.20.
The fire fee is a fixed dollar amount per residential single-family dwelling unit of $256. (pg 47) This is a 56% increase in the citizen’s tax burden from the city. For a home valued at $250,000, the fee would be a 21% increase and on a $500,000 property the fee is an 11% increase.
Rental and commercial property tax increases will be significantly higher as the fee doubles in 1700 square foot increments. That means a 3400 square foot rental or commercial property will receive a $512 tax increase. For spaces of public worship, churches, or entertainment venues this square foot approach will result in literally thousands of dollars of new tax.
Necessity: If the 2018 budget has not significantly increased, and the 2017 year total loss across all funds resulted in only a $1.8 million decrease, where is the need?
The projected increased revenue from this fee is $20 million. (Pg.43)
The fire services operating budget is projected to rise only $3 million from just over $30 million to $33.3 million. (Pg.56)
The fee is obviously not to fill a gap in the fire services operations which were previously fully funded from general revenue.
The projected total cost of the operating budget of the city, excluding funds transfers, increases only 3.8%
If citizen and business tax burdens are to increase from 10% to over 50%, with non-profits, churches and lower wealth citizens bearing disproportionate impact, then where is the $17 million not needed for fire services going?
It is interesting to note that the budget also recognizes a $9 million cost reduction for police services, presumably the anticipated savings from returning county police operations to them.
Were elected officials paying attention?
As noted, the reduction in the 2017 funds balance, which represents the final impact of all dollars received, expended or accrued, was $1,783,525 (pg. 54)
For 2018 it appears the net positive result from general fund will be applied to $20 million debt service and $7 million capital projects. (pg54) While laudable in terms of fiscal stability, a one-time expenditure to debt reduction and capital projects does not justify a permanent, dramatic increase in the tax burden.
What will the additional millions be used for next year? Will taxes go down by $20million? Will the fee be repealed? Will we continue as a city to retain a disproportionate burden on those with least wealth?
Would the Mayor and Council, many of whom believe themselves to be fiscally responsible, care to address these questions?Mary Willoughby
African Americans have a different view of Flannery O’Connor
I recently read Rachael Flora’s article in the May 16 edition of Connect Savannah. It begins, “Savannah loves it some Flannery O’Connor”.
Might I remind you that Savannah is 55% African American. Might I also remind you that O’Connor, though a gifted writer, very much celebrated in the annals of American Literature, especially here in the South, even more so in here in her birthplace, Savannah, was one of the most pious of writers.
In fact, I’ve heard it said that she was more Catholic and pious than the Pope.
With all of her celebrity, writing abilities, piousness, I cannot think of any writer or person for that matter, more racist than Ms. O’Connor.
It’s not just how she depicts her black subjects in her stories because one might say that Mark Twain and William Faulkner did similar depictions in their stories. I certainly would not consider either of those writers racist, especially the former.
To understand how deeply negative the feelings Ms. O’Connor had for African Americans, one must read her despicable letters, something I have done on many occasions. I always wonder if she ever asked herself, “what would Jesus think?”
If ONE African American in Savannah (or anywhere else on this planet for that matter) loves Flannery O’Connor, the person, I would like to first refer that one person to read her letters.
If he or she still loves Ms. O’Connor, I have a couple of colleagues that I’d love for him or her to visit.Walter O Evans, M.D.(A Savannahian who detests people like Ms. O’Connor)
Boyd killing must be taken out of Grand Jury’s hands
The case of Ricky Boyd shed light on how police handle cases where Black males are concerned. The main objective for many policemen are to shoot to kill and fill in the blanks later. This case is identical to so many Black men in America where white police officers kill Black unarmed men and use the old familiar line that they where in fear for their lives.
In Charleston, S.C Dylan Roof, a white man, massacred nine Black members of an A.M.E Black church. Dylan was armed and extremely dangerous; however, the police apprehended him and treated him as if he was the victim!
This is an example of how white killers are treated and allowed to have their day in court.
District Attorney Heap is going to turn Boyd’s case over to the Grand Jury. According to Heap, this would give all individuals a level of transparency.
Actually, the Grand Jury would allow the police officer to show his emotion and tell his side of the story while Boyd’s Attorney is not allowed to cross examine him.
In addition, the deck is stackesd in favor of any white policemen whose case goes to the Grand Jury for killing a Black man. Most of the time, there is no Judge present! The proceedings are led by the Prosecutor who is Meg Heap. Since the police department is an agency of the Prosecutor’s office there is an inherent conflict of interest.
The police who killed Boyd would have a team of of lawyers coaching them. Most of them are often prosecutors.
The Grand Jury members are almost always white and does not represent the Black community. They are not screened for bias or have any concept of the due process law but most important, they come with a level of prejudice against Black men.
In order for Ricky Boyd’s family to receives a fair trial, it would take an act of Congress to take away the absolute power from the DA and abolish Grand Juries.
In 2014, high profile cases such as Michael Brown,Tamir Rice, Eric Gardner, and in Savannah, Charles Smith’s case went before the Grand Jury and the white police officers were all acquitted.
To many Black people, the name Grand Jury reminds them of the Grand Wizards of the KKK.Marilyn Jackson