May’s question: How much does the City pay for lifeguards?
First off, the guards are technically called “Ocean Rescue” staff because they do much more than traditional “lifeguards” who normally patrol a swimming pool. They receive their funds from the City of Tybee Island and are funded through the Fire Department’s budget. For the last few years, the City has been spending about $350,000 a year on our Ocean Rescue operations. Last year, thanks to support from our County Commissioner, Pat Farrell, and the support of the entire Chatham County Commission, the County chipped in $10,000 to help pay for additional Ocean Rescue staff on busy holidays and special events. We also received a rescue boat recently from the Savannah-Chatham County Metropolitan Police Department at no charge.
While $350,000 sounds like a lot of money and is almost three times what was spent on Ocean Rescue a few years ago, keep in mind that the increase in this budget item was concurrent with a 50% increase in parking rates (from $1.00 to $1.50 an hour). The Ocean Rescue staff keeps very detailed statistics and an analysis of their data reveals that Tybee folks very rarely need to be rescued. Turns out Tybee citizens are pretty good swimmers. So it makes sense that our parking revenue covers the of beach safety. And while this is a service that rarely benefits our citizens, we do have an obligation to provide a safe experience for our visitors.
We continue to work on obtaining additional county and state support for our Ocean Rescue services but recognize that the current fiscal climate in not conducive to obtaining funds from other governmental entities.
Thanks for the question.
Until next month,
Send questions to “Ask the Mayor,” City of Tybee Island, P.O. Box 2749, Tybee Island, GA 31328, or e-mail them with an “Ask the Mayor” header to firstname.lastname@example.org.