Town Council will take a first look later this week at next year’s budget, which proposes a significant increase in funding for the fire department.
Last year, the town budgeted $124,175 in the general fund for the Surfside Beach Fire Department, but this year the department is asking for $166,498.
Fire Chief Dan Cimini said the increase will largely accommodate the need for new uniforms.
Cimini said there is mismatched gear and the department needs to replace 14 sets of uniforms that are outdated and in very poor condition to meet the National Fire Protection Association and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.
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The uniforms will cost an anticipated $32,000.
The mismatched gear puts firefighters at risk for injury, Cimini said, and could result in heat or steam burns.
Surfside Beach isn’t the only municipality looking for more money for the fire department.
Horry County Council is considering a proposed 3.5 millage tax increase for Horry County Fire Rescue. Chief Fred Crosby told County Council during its budget retreat last week that without the millage increase 18 positions would be cut and some stations would close.
The Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Rescue also is looking at an increase to the millage cap – raising it from 10 mills to 20 mills.
Surfside Beach’s proposed $5.7 million budget does not include any tax increases.
Cimini requested an additional $30,000 from the hospitality fund to upgrade a fire engine. He said the engine, which is about 20 years old, does not comply with NFPA standards.
Replacing the engine would cost between $450,000 and $500,000. The $30,000 in repairs could be completed in about a month, Cimini said, and would ensure the engine is in acceptable condition before the next Insurance Service Office, or ISO, evaluation. Surfside Beach has an ISO rating of 3.
“The loss of the points on this unit would be enough to put our classification back to a rating of 4 or possibly an ISO 5,” Cimini said. “More importantly is the liability of this unit not meeting compliance due to the standards.”
The budget meetings will be held locally for the first time in years and will start at 9 a.m. Thursday and Friday in Council Chambers. The local venue is a direct result of residents’ complaints last year asking why Town Council needed to leave the beach to figure out the budget.
On Thursday council will look at the proposed general fund budget and capital replacement plan. On Friday, special revenue including hospitality and accommodations tax will be discussed in addition to capital projects, the sanitation enterprise fund and the pier enterprise fund.