MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) - A budget deficit for $177,000 was approved by Murrells Inlet-Garden City fire district members at a public meeting Monday night, said Chairman Al Hitchcock.
Hitchcock listed reasons why expenses are overwhelming the district income:
- Large increase in cost for health insurance and workers' compensation -- A large portion is for capital, he said.
- The current radio system has to be rebanded. New radios and to eliminate the interference will cost around $80,000, according to Hitchcock.
- Safety equipment for firefighters costs $20,000. Hitchcock said the board also plans to incorporate a replacement plan to budget for gear, yearly. He said the cost of gear has increased.
- Medical supplies, required by DHEC, cost $40,000. Supplies include IV fluids, medicine on ambulances, and the like.
In addition, Hitchcock listed three potential budget balancers:
- Pass a referendum in March
- Get more funding from Georgetown County
- Cross Recovery Act
The referendum in March would need to be voted upon to pass. An increase of four mills would bring the rate to 14 mills for the people in the district. Currently, taxpayers pay 10 mills.
Hitchcock said compared to surrounding counties, he doesn't think it is too much to ask.
In comparison, Hitchcock said Horry County residents pay 21 mills; Pawleys Island residents pay 16 mills.
The Murrells Inlet-Garden City fire district earned a class 3 iso rating, which can save homeowners money on insurance.
Funding from Georgetown County would likely balance the budget, Hitchcock said.
The Cross Recovery Act would help the district minimally, he added.
"I think we can get the support of the voters [for the referendum,] they just need to go to the polls."
Three stations are in the Murrells Inlet-Garden City fire district, and approximately 80 members, 62 of which are full time paid employees.
"I hope we don't ever have to lay off any first responders, and I don't think we're gonna have to lay anybody off," Hitchcock said.
"Right now, we are in the standstill mode; waiting to see what happens in the spring," he added.
Areas in the Murrells Inlet-Garden City district include:
- North of Brookgreen Gardens: Wachesaw to the Garden City Point
- To Surfside Beach city limits - Melody Lane
- Seaside Elementary School and Tupelo Bay Golf Club
- Collins Creek to southeast side of Collins Creek - Blackmoor development, off Highway 707
From December 2013 to November 2014, first responders in the district responded to 2,080 calls in Horry County; 1,015 calls in Georgetown County.