Incorporation of Skidaway Island – Just the FAQs
Below are some Frequently Asked Questions and their Answers, as a handy reference.
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Q. What is incorporation?
A. Municipal incorporation is the process of forming a city from the unincorporated territory of a county. The process shifts some local government responsibilities for an unincorporated area under the jurisdiction of a county commission to a newly established city council.
Q. What exactly is being done and considered?
A. The Board of The Landings Association secured placeholder legislation in the General Assembly in order to begin a process of robust community discussion and evaluation of the cost/benefit of incorporation of Skidaway Island as a municipality.
Q. What lands would the City of Skidaway Island include?
A. As currently envisioned, the City would include all land once you cross the fixed bridge across the Skidaway Narrows onto Skidaway Island. This would include South Harbor, Modena, The Marshes, etc., but would not include Green Island.
Q. What are some reasons for considering incorporation?
A. Research of other incorporation initiatives throughout Georgia shows the reasons for pursuing incorporation vary but usually are sought for one or more of the following reasons:
1. To create representation that is proportionate to population;
2. To create a politically accountable governing body for a specific and limited geographic area;
3. To improve local public services;
4. To redirect existing revenues generated from the local residents to directly support local services;
5. To give a community local control over land use planning;
6. To pursue local policy goals more appropriate for the community;
7. To create or preserve local identity;
8. To prevent forced annexation by nearby municipalities; and
9. To address dissatisfaction with the current service from the county government.
Q. Why are WE looking at incorporation?
A. Discussion dates back to at least the early 2000s. More recently, the current project began in earnest in 2014 during the update of our Landings Association Strategic Plan, presented in the 2015 Strategic Plan Town Hall Meeting. The rationale for exploring incorporation, excerpted from the 2015 Strategic Plan, follows:
“With the stated objective of Chatham County’s Commission Chair that all unincorporated Chatham County should be incorporated, and with the City/County conflict over the Metro Police Department, it is imperative that The Landings not remain on the sidelines but take an active role in shaping its future. A comprehensive study should be conducted to define and analyze all facets of incorporation, including a roadmap, to enable the Board to decide whether to proceed with community discussion of the desirability of incorporation.”
Q. That’s from 2014 and 2015. What about today? Do we still need to review incorporation?
A. Yes. The same concerns identified in 2014 remain today. Under the current County decision-making structure, Skidaway Island interests are represented by only one of eight elected Commissioners. Our concerns in this regard were further exacerbated by our recent experiences with Tropical Storm Hermine and with Hurricane Matthew.
In addition, if Skidaway Island does not become a city by 2021, we would lose out on negotiations for Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) until 2031. This funding is estimated at $2.3 million/year, and would be the second largest funding source for the City.
As well, the State Legislature has now begun a study regarding consolidating the City of Savannah with all of unincorporated Chatham County, including The Landings. Therefore, The Landings and Skidaway Island could be forcibly annexed into the City of Savannah/Chatham County, regardless of how the majority of Skidaway Island residents vote.
Q. What is the merger or consolidation of Chatham County and the City of Savannah about? Why would that affect The Landings?
A. It is a proposal being considered to consolidate the two separate jurisdictions into one metropolitan government. Since The Landings is part of unincorporated Chatham County, we would be included in a new merged government even if we voted against it, if the majority of those affected voted in favor.
Q. Would there be any change to The Landings Association's Security, Public Works, etc?
Q. Would The Landings' gates have to be removed?
Q. What’s the status of the Chatham County/City of Savannah merger?
A. A study is planned for 2018, if funding is secured at the State level.
Q. Have you completed a Financial Feasibility Study?
A. Yes. As required by the State Legislature, The Landings Association contracted with one of the two institutions that can perform such a study. Last year, the Andrew Young School of Government at Georgia State University completed the study and reported: “Based on this analysis, the city of Skidaway Island should expect annual revenue of approximately $6.4 million and annual expenditures of approximately $4.6 million to $4.8 million. Based on these estimates and given the assumptions that are detailed in this report, we find that the proposed city of Skidaway Island is financially feasible.” You can read the complete report by clicking Incorporation Feasibility Study.
Q. Why would we, the residents, want to incorporate Skidaway Island?
A. The taxes collected by Chatham County for the Special Services District (SSD) would go to a new city of Skidaway Island for funding a government focused on our island and our specific service needs. In addition, it would allow the residents of Skidaway Island to control items such as if and when to evacuate for a hurricane; determine on our own whether to install a roundabout at the four-way stop; make application as a City to FEMA for storm debris removal; and regardless of the outcome of that application, begin cleanup following a storm throughout the City of Skidaway immediately, rather than waiting six weeks, as occurred post-Hurricane Matthew.
Q. If Skidaway Island does incorporate, how would my taxes change?
A. Below is a chart of the 2017 property taxes in mills paid by Unincorporated Chatham County residents, including those in The Landings.
Chatham County General Fund Maintenance and Operations
Special Services District
Chatham Area Transit
Savannah-Chatham Board of Education
As envisioned, were Skidaway Island to become its own city, the 4.990 mills paid into the Special Services District would be decreased to 4.130 and go to the City of Skidaway Island.
Q. Would there be any impact to the City of Savannah?
A. No. Residents of Skidaway Island do not pay City of Savannah taxes.
Q. What governmental services are provided in the Special Services District?
A. The Special Services District covers such items as policing, maintenance of rights-of-way, yard debris pickup, roads and bridges, stormwater management, planning and zoning, Recorders Court, and general government. Those services would be assumed by the City of Skidaway Island, potentially through a contractual basis.
Q. Would my taxes increase?
A. The Incorporation Study Committees Report shows that taxes could be decreased from 4.990 mills to 4.130 mills.
Q. How is that surplus achieved with the 4.130 mills that now go to the Special Services District?
A. Besides that millage rate, the City of Skidaway Island also could receive a portion of the next Local Option Sales Tax (LOST), public utility franchise fees, and other tax revenues generated from our community that now go to other governments. Those make up close to $4 million of the total expected revenues.
Q. Who would operate police services, fire services, court systems, etc.?
A. The Police-Court Study Committee costed out setting up a new City of Skidaway Island Police Department, though that service may be contracted out to the reestablished Chatham County Police Department. A court would be established on island to hear cases involving City ordinances and traffic violations.
The fire services could be contracted with Chatham Emergency Services (formerly Southside Fire Department), as a pass-through on the tax collection bills in lieu of separate subscription billings, as currently exists.
The water systems on Skidaway are owned by private companies, and that would remain unchanged. Residents could continue to contract with the trash provider of their choosing. However, a City potentially could pursue a citywide contract that resulted in better pricing, a recycling option, and an organized delivery schedule that result in fewer trucks on the roads.
Q. If Skidaway Island is incorporated, what would change for The Landings?
A. Should Skidaway Island become incorporated, there would be no change to the functions, gates, governing structure, leadership, Assessment, Covenants, etc., of The Landings or the other private, on-island communities, such as South Harbor or Modena. Simply, the funding and services provided to and by the County’s Special Services District instead would be provided by the City of Skidaway Island.
Q. What would be the name of this proposed, new city?
A. The new city would be known as the City of Skidaway Island.
Q. How would this name change affect our current mailing address?
A. Addresses are controlled by the U.S. Postal Service. However, we expect addresses to remain Savannah, Georgia 31411.
Q. With the new city, would there be reassessment of our property values, and would the Stephens-Day Homestead Exemption still apply?
A. Incorporation of the City of Skidaway Island would not impact any existing homestead exemptions with your local property taxes.
Q. What is the cost of building infrastructure to support this new city?
A. Please see the Incorporation Study Committees Complete Report for details.
Q. What are the next steps?
A. If this study and discussion continue to indicate that incorporation is in the best interest of Skidaway Island, the State Legislature would formally consider the bill in early 2018. If passed by the Legislature, all of the registered voters of Skidaway Island subsequently would vote on incorporation. Should a majority of those who vote approve incorporation, there would be a phase-in period that could last up to two years, making the City of Skidaway Island a reality sometime by July 2021.