HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County Council voted Tuesday in favor of raising taxes by roughly $24 per property valued at $100,000. The motion was for a six millage property tax increase to go towards improving the Horry County Fire Rescue Department. This was the final vote(third reading) on the Horry County Fire Rescue Department millage increase that needed to happen before June 30, since it's an element of the county's 2014 Fiscal Year budget.
Horry County Fire Chief Fred Crosby has made several presentations around the county in the past few months, including several to county council, explaining why his department needs more money. Chief Crosby said if he doesn't get more money in next year's budget, at the minimum he will have to shut down at least three county fire stations and lay off at least 28 employees.
People from the community expressed their support for a tax millage increase.
"Nobody in this room wants a tax increase. But they must realize at one point there must be an increase in taxes to maintain the same level of service that you have in the county," One Horry County Homeowner said.
"What I'm gonna ask you now and when you get ready to vote, morally can you say, if my house burns or if I have a medical emergency and Allen's station is closed that you will be able to look me in the face and tell me that's what had to happen?," Horry County Resident Tom Perschy asked.
"The most important function that you have as a council is to meet the public safety needs of the residents," One Horry County Homeowner said.
"Our fire department's have been shorted for years and that's sinful and shameful," Horry County Resident Mary Daly said.
Nobody from the community spoke publicly against the tax increase.
Chief Crosby said a six millage increase would help bring staffing levels up, prevent fire stations from being shut down and keep homeowner's insurance rates from rising because of closed stations.
At the last vote, not all the council members were in favor of increasing taxes across the county.
"Don't you go out there and vote on no tax increase on us," Council Member James Frazier said referencing what some of the community members in his district said to him.
"Are we willing in Carolina Forest and Little River to pay additional taxes to support the rural areas of Horry County?," Council Member Harold Worley asked.
Some of the council members noted the districts they represent won't be affected by a lack of fire stations, so the tax increase represents more of a burden.
After each council member had a say in why they were in favor, or why they were opposed, the motion passed 7-5 at the second reading for the 2014 FY Budget.
The final decision boiled down to what happened Tuesday at the third and final reading. There will not be another opportunity for public comment on this issue.