Savannah city leaders say coronavirus is impacting 2020 budget

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Savannah City Council is focusing on what the 2020 budget now looks like. City leaders said the budget is changing day by day due to the pandemic.

The coronavirus is forcing the city of Savannah to take another look at its budget. Experts said the pandemic has dealt a blow to the local economy. Chief Budget Officer Melissa Carter walked the council through what her office is seeing.

“We are predicting that we will be down even further as the virus continues to reel through our economy,” Melissa Carter said.

The budget is balanced starting at $425 million. With only four months of the budget data recorded, two months have been impacted by the virus. Large streams of income come from property tax, sales tax, and hotel-motel tax. Carter said they are seeing areas of caution.

“We are already monitoring the operating budget to ensure mandatory spending versus discretionary spending is taking place so that we can be in the best possible position,” Carter said.

She added that the sales tax portion of the budget is seeing a decrease of nearly 19 percent. The projected hotel-motel tax collections loss through April is more than $2 million.

“We have depended so much on tourists and outside dollars coming in, we’re going to have to make sure that the dollars that we have are spent here locally,” Alderwoman for District 1, Bernetta Lanier said.

“It’s critically important as a council that we consider the widespread ramifications of any new taxes expecially in the middle of what could be an ongoing depression or an economic downturn,” Alderman for District 4, Nick Palumbo said.

Carter said the city is budgeting conservatively to get through this economic crisis.

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