Savannah, GA - It's a small protest in more ways than one. First, the amount of people taking part is not large, actually only two so far. Secondly, it's the brain child of Savannah Minister Leonard Small. "I will not let this happen to the church or my community without speaking up," Small told us.
Small is protesting the fire fee approved by the Savannah City Council. It would affect his church and other nonprofits which he says can't afford what Small calls a new "tax."
While he acknowledges that it was the city council that voted to approve the tax, Small still blames City Manager Rob Hernandez for proposing it and although he also acknowledges the city council votes on the overall budget, he holds the city manager accountable for budget cuts to certain organizations..
"Hernandez has been here two years and in two years he's cut funding to the Rape Crisis Center, Green Briar, the Boys Club, the Food Bank," said Small. "At my church, Liftway Baptist Church, we give out more brown bags than any other facility in the city and he's gonna tax this church which fed the hungry in Liberia during the Ebola crisis."
Small says his church has not received a fire fee bill yet,but he is hearing from other ministers and says his church's bill could be in the thousands.
"We were paying for fire services out of our property taxes since 1953 and and all of a sudden we've got to change?", Small said.
He says his church, like many others, is tasked with helping the poor. "But you don't get to tax the church, the church feeds the community," said Small.
The reverend also doesn't support a recent idea from the mayor to cut the fee in half. "Okay, so we're going to be half stupid, they're talking about half the fire tax so we're just going to be half stupid," he said. "We're going to be paying half of what we shouldn't be paying at all."
Small says he purchased hundreds of signs to use at City Hall (he has about 20 signs left) and he'd be happy to have others join him in the protest.