MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) - Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire Rescue crews want you to vote in their favor for a referendum to increase its districts' tax millage cap. It comes with the stance that by paying more on your property taxes, you could actually save money in the long run. On top of that, the district would be able to get an entire new station.
The fire department already owns a plot of land on McDowell Shortcut Road. It's the same spot the department has been trying to build a fourth station for the district since 2007 when the land was purchased. A vote on the property tax increase, described as minimal, would allow the department to finally build it.
"We're at 10 mills now, we're asking to go to 14 mills, which is not a whole lot," says Al Hitchcock, the Chairman for Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire Rescue. "Georgetown County is at 29 mills, Horry County is at 21 mills. So this is not an unreasonable request."
To put it in a dollar amount, "It would be about 37 dollars on the average home in our district," Hitchcock calculates. "The average home is about $235,000 dollars. "
Hitchcock says the increase in taxes could save you more on fire insurance when the department is evaluated. This could happen once the fourth station is built and new equipment is purchased. Without the increase, your fire insurance could go up.
"Our call volume has increased over a thousand calls in the last two to three years, and in order to maintain the services that people expect and that they're demanding, we need to get station four up and running," Hitchcock explains.
On top of the new fire station, the increase would let the department get updated equipment along with new hires and funds to maintain staff. "We'll definitely decline in services if we do not get this millage increase."
Hitchcock says that's not the goal, and their concern grows as the number of their service calls increases. "We're in the bottom 20 percent of the millage collected in the state of South Carolina, and yet in the fire performance, the fire department is ranked in the top 5 percent in the nation, and we want to keep it that way."
This is only something you can vote on if you're living in the district.
The vote is on March 17, and you will go to your normal polling to cast a ballot. You can find your polling place by visiting this website: https://info.scvotes.sc.gov/eng/voterinquiry/VoterInformationRequest.aspx?PageMode=VoterInfo.