Letters to the Editor

Letter | Horry County councilman: Tax increase not frivolous, vital to public safety

Re: June 7 letter, “Vaught has broken campaign promises,” by Kathy Hamilton.

Ms. Hamilton, you are absolutely correct in stating that I ran and won the Horry County Council District 8 seat on the promise of not supporting frivolous property tax increases. But unless you consider public safety to be a frivolous issue, you are absolutely wrong in saying I broke my campaign promise.

The voters I talked to during the campaign stressed to me that public safety was of primary concern to them. Yes, they wanted to keep property taxes low, but their main concern was for their right to feel safe in their homes.

Raising property taxes is something no one on council wants to do, but keeping the citizens safe is paramount to all of us.

The facts are that our public safety people have been continually asked for several years now to hold their heads up and risk their lives while earning less pay than other area personnel with similar jobs but much smaller areas to cover.

As a result, we are being forced to pay more overtime as we lose experienced officers to other jurisdictions, which are able to pay thousands more per year with the same benefit package.

This “frivolous” tax increase, as you call it, will help us retain good officers, recruit and train new ones, put forth a more concentrated effort to combat the growing drug problems, and add personnel to the anti-gang effort. In addition, the Horry County sheriff will have more personnel to provide bailiffs in the courts, warrant service and manning the detention center, services which also benefit the towns and cities of the county.

The solicitor's office will gain attorneys to help speed up prosecution of criminals which often languish far too long in jail awaiting trial and costing taxpayers for their housing and upkeep.

None of these public safety enhancements would be possible without a means of paying for them and, in fact, without a source of revenue to pay for them, the improvements would not only be impossible, but cuts in the present level of service would have to ensue because the budget cannot continue to be balanced by using up our reserve funds.

Our administrator and his staff, along with Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, have gone over the budget proposals submitted by the various departments with a fine-toothed comb, cutting proposals and requested enhancements by more than $8 million - and we would still, without a property tax increase, have to dip into the reserve fund by more than $8 million.

This is a process we have had to follow since 2009, and it simply cannot continue.

Whether we approve a 7.2 mil or a lesser increase, you may rest assured, Ms. Hamilton, that frivolity will play no part in our decision.

The writer is a member of Horry County Council.