Florence City Council weighs possible tax increase

Florence, SC - FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - A new fire station could be coming to Florence, but Florence City Council says it could be at the expense of a 4 mil tax hike.

Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela said the council voted to raise taxes to cover impending expenses to build and staff the new fire station, and add several new police officers to patrol city streets.

Wukela said the new fire station is needed to help keep the city's ISO rating at a two, because early indications hinted at the rating increasing to a four if the station wasn't added.

"A small tax increase, relatively speaking, will save [the city] significantly in the long run on homeowner fire insurance premiums if we don't provide adequate fire protection," the mayor said. "I think with this conservative financial approach and the investment we are making, Florence is well positioned into the future as the economy improves."

However, Wukela admits there will have to be cuts in other areas of the city as officials work to balance for the budget. One of the programs that he said could have a funding cut is the Boys & Girls Club.

Neal Zimmerman, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Pee Dee, said the organization has faced two years of cuts from funding sources, but will figure out a way to make up whatever difference may come about. He said though he's worried that if services are cut, it would lead to kids hanging out on the streets looking for trouble.

"[For] about 80 percent of them, this is their after-school program," Zimmerman said. "If it wasn't for us, they would not have any place else to go, so they'd have to go home to an empty household [or] go hand out on the streets. The challenge of raising those dollars is there, but the opportunity of finding those dollars is less and less. The needs actually go up, especially with the cliental that we focus on - serving the kids who need us the most."

Zimmerman said he has close to 750 children and teens throughout the Pee Dee region who use the club on a regular basis. He hopes the community will continue to support the organization so he can keep offering services to the children.

"We know it's hard, but they need to keep stepping up to the plate and help all the non-profits in the community, because if we lose our kids, we don't have a future," Zimmerman added.

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