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Horry County closer to approving tax increase

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Horry County Council is one step closer to approving a property tax increase and a fee increase for vehicles after it voted 6-5 Tuesday to approve second readings of both ordinances.

Each ordinance must be approved a third time before they become law; both are slated for June 16.

Marcus Rhodes of the county’s law enforcement division and community activist Pam Creech were the only speakers during public comment about the proposed 7.2 mill increase. The increase would raise $13.5 million next fiscal year to help prevent the county from reaching for $8 million in its reserves to balance the 2016 budget. The additional funds would also generate money for public safety projects like adding two court security officers, four violent crime detectives, three gang unit detectives, purchasing body cameras and providing police with digital storage for the cameras.

The increase would also provide two prosecutors for the solicitor’s office, 3 percent pay increases for county employees and 5 percent for Class 1 police officers, new stretchers for the ambulance service, a needed police radar, and help to address call volume issues that the emergency management system has been experiencing.

Before council voted, Rhodes said approving a property tax increase may be difficult.

“I propose, as hard as it is, to look at citizens and say, ‘Guys, we need $28 on each hundred thousand dollar home, but in return, we’re going to provide the most important part … of county government, [which] is service to the citizens,’ ” Rhodes said. “Quite frankly, I know [law enforcement personnel] is our biggest expense, I recognize that, but that’s also our biggest payback to our citizens. It’s what you, as a council, can provide as a service to our citizens.”

If council were to approve the 7.2 mill hike, which is the maximum allowed this year for Horry County, it would mean a $28.80 increase in property taxes annually for the owner of a home with an appraised value of $100,000. Those with homestead exemption on the same valued home would pay $14.40 more than their current county tax bill, and those with rental properties would pay an additional $43.20 on a $100,000 home. Businesses with an appraised property value of $100,000 would pay an additional $75.60 annually.

Creech said she also sees the need for the increase, but asked council to consider lower-paid employees throughout the county the next time it approves adding services or employees.

“I do want you to remember that there’s a large percentage of people who live in this county that are dishwashers, waitresses, and they’re bartenders, they’re retired and they are the elderly,” Creech said. “Some of these people work two jobs. Some of them only work minimum wage. Some of them work in mobile homes that are worth $2,000 or $3,000 … While that $24 may not hurt a person living in a $100,000 house very much, I’ve been behind numerous people in the grocery story who could not finish paying for their groceries for their children because they lacked $1.25.”

Councilmen Marion Foxworth, Paul Prince, Jody Prince, Harold Worley and Tyler Servant voted against the property tax increase.

Council also voted 6-5 to increase the vehicle fee from $30 to $50 to raise $5.4 million in additional funds for resurfacing and paving roads. If approved, it would help fund an additional 20 miles of resurfaced roads annually, pave an additional two miles of dirt roads annually and send an additional $1 million annually to municipalities for roads.

Foxworth, Prince, Worley, Servant and James Frazier voted against the ordinance.

One of the supporters, Councilman Johnny Vaught, said there were long-term cures to the county’s long-time road problem.

“This maintains our roads at a proper level almost into perpetuity, at least until 2026,” Vaught said. “So this is not just a one-year deal. This is a long-term fix.”

Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or on Twitter @TSN_JRodriguez.

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