Residents from Whitemarsh, Wilmington, Talahi and Oatland Islands will meet Thursday night to hear the results of a months-long feasibility study. Researchers spent hundreds of hours looking into whether it’s possible to create a new city.
News 3 has exclusive access to what residents will see tonight at the meeting. According to the study, creating a new city is not only feasible, it’s economically beneficial to islands taxpayers.
Incorporate the Islands collected $30,000 from local businesses and residents for the study from researchers at the University of Georgia. The organization has nearly $20,000 leftover to use for an advertising campaign to inform the public about the benefits of incorporation.
If the islands create their own city, the study shows it will lower property taxes for the 23,538 people who would live in the city’s limits. The new municipality would replace Pooler as the second-largest city in Chatham County.
Specifically, the study says city officials would decrease the millage rate from 4.99 to 4.130. This slight change saves taxpayers more than $800,000 per year.
Despite the decrease in taxes, the study says the municipality would have a more than $2 million budget surplus every year. According to Incorporate the Islands, this money will go directly to the islands for road repairs, a new fire station, and other related needs.
According to the study, islands residents pay nearly $11 million to other municipalities for services that do not directly benefit islands communities.
Incorporate the Islands proposes several city departments, including a city administration, public works and community development department.
The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at St. Andrew’s School.It’s an opportunity to ask state and local leaders questions you have about the potential change.
If the bill is chosen for consideration, state legislators in the state House and Senate have one full year to review the proposed changes.
The Georgia State Legislature will consider an incorporation bill only if a feasibility study is completed, according to Georgia law.
A vote would happen during the next legislative session in early 2020. Then, if the Governor signs the bill, it appears as a question on the ballot of islands residents. If a majority votes to create a new city, only then will the process begin.
The question could appear on the ballot as early as Spring 2020.
The new city would begin taking over services January-April of 2021.