SAVANNAH CITY GOVERNMENT
SPECIAL CALLED MEETING - PUBLIC HEARING REGARDING THE MILLAGE RATE
August 13, 2020 – 10:00 a.m.
Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the City Council Special Called Meeting was held via Zoom video communications at 10: 00 a.m.
PRESENT: Mayor Van R. Johnson, II, Presiding
Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter, At-Large, Post 1, Chairman
Alderwoman Alicia Miller Blakely, At-Large, Post 2
Alderwoman Bernetta B. Lanier, District 1
Alderman Detric Leggett, District 2
Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan, District 3
Alderman Nick Palumbo, District 4, Vice-Chairman
Alderwoman Dr. Estella Edwards Shabazz, District 5, Mayor Pro-Tem
Alderman Kurtis Purtee, District 6
City Manager Pat Monahan
City Attorney Bates Lovett
Clerk of Council Mark Massey
|Special Meeting Agenda Items
|1. Public Hearing #2 Regarding a Millage Rate Increase
Mayor Johnson provided general information pertaining to the public comment options, as well as the process being considered by the Mayor and Aldermen with respect to the setting of the millage rate.
Mayor Johnson indicated written public comment received by the Clerk of Council has been distributed to the Mayor and Aldermen in advance of the meeting (from Colin W. Brady, Andy Gastley, and Tony Piazza opposing a tax increase). Mayor Johnson then started the public hearing with the following speakers who offered public comment:
City Attorney Lovett offered an explanation of the City Council’s decision to consider two paths at the same time with respect to advertising the millage rate hearings and the related action.
City Manager Monahan added staff met the legal requirement, and the staff also published the recent 5-years of tax levy as required by law. In addition to the legal ad, staff ran a companion ad to explain the two paths that the City Council planned to follow.
Alderwoman Gibson-Carter addressed Mr. TJ Burrison. She thanked him for his active engagement and what he acknowledged in his public comment correctly. The Mayor did ask for a consensus from Council. The majority of Council at that juncture indicated a rollback, since Alderman Leggett and Mayor Johnson did not participate. Alderwoman Gibson-Carter consulted with the City Attorney on the number of hearings required in the case of a rollback. Her concern with the two paths was with respect to the advertisement, and her interest to not be grouped with the Council pertaining to tentatively or not supporting a tax increase. Another notice went out stating that the Mayor and Aldermen were considering a property tax increase. Upon her request, City Manager Monahan gave Alderwoman Gibson-Carter information regarding how the announcements should be projected, and she indicated that the messaging was not consistent with what was announced. Alderwoman Gibson-Carter advised Mr. Burrison he is the type of citizen that our government needs to hold us accountable. She further stated, now the City is going to hide behind the CARES Act funding to cover shortfalls. Guidelines in the CARES Act say that you cannot use the money to cover shortfalls, so she requested an explanation for that as well. Alderwoman Gibson-Carter encouraged citizens of Savannah to stay plugged in, wake up, get engaged and hold your government accountable.
Mayor Johnson requested the City Attorney to correctly cite/provide State law. The City Attorney stated for purposes of the record, OGGA 48-5-32.1(c)2 provides specific language to be used to advertise and maintain the millage rate where it is. Wording/language gets cut and paste from the Code and placed within an advertisement. He understands that a side-by-side comparison was also added to explain the precise State law language. The City Attorney agrees language in the Code is not very clear.
Mayor Johnson asked the City Attorney for his legal opinion regarding whether we followed the State law. The City Attorney replied yes.
Wilder-Bryan stated at work sessions with respect to what was called a straw poll, everybody knows that we cannot vote. So, there was no vote. We all got the opportunity to say what we wanted to happen. For the record, it was a lie. I never said I wanted to increase taxes. My platform is what it is. The Clerk of Council understands that we cannot vote, and if he had said that initially we would not have had this conversation. I have full confidence in the City Manager, and he suggested we would be at a deficit and everybody on the Council said they did not want to cut human services. We were already at a deficit of $13 million, so to have an additional $600,000 cut, did not feel right with her. When the City Manager is allowed to do his job, it is effective. We cannot go into the community and put these falsehoods out there when everyone knows it was not a vote. It was a work session and we are discussing it now. When it is time to vote today, the people will know where we always stood. She stands by both recommendations made by the City Manager. Initially we were at a shortfall and now he found the money. We won’t have to take that route. Work sessions are about hammering out the things that we want, and it is not final until we take a vote. For the record, she would want Mr. Massey to say there is no voting in a work session. Rather we have discussions where the Council continues to work, until the time comes for a vote. The City Manager has found some money, and he is not going to do anything illegal. The citizens need to know that Linda Wilder-Bryan did not take a vote, we were waiting to get more information. Based on the information, we don’t want to increase taxes. When it comes time to vote today, the people of the City will see that we are all in agreement. We held public hearings and listened to what the people said. We were able to participate, and the State legislature deems us to exercise this process.
Mayor Johnson advised we have another public hearing (#3) today at 2:00 p.m.
Mayor Pro-Tem Dr. Shabazz moved to close public hearing #2 regarding the millage rate, Alderwoman Wilder-Bryan and Alderman Leggett seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
Mayor Johnson adjourned the Hearing (Special Called Meeting Regarding the Millage Rate) at 11:01 a.m.
The audio recording of the Council Meeting can be found by copying and inserting the below link in your url:
Mark Massey, Clerk of Council
Date Minutes Approved: August 27, 2020