MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) - Horry County officials sent out unofficial results of the Murrells Inlet-Garden City millage increase vote.
1,437 voters were in favor of the millage increase and 60 voters opposed the increase.
The millage increase vote was held at the polls, at 7 a.m. Tuesday, for voters to decide to increase the millage rate to fund emergency medical services.
The current millage rate is 10; supporters are asking for a four mill increase, to total 14. The increase would generate an extra $900,000 in the first year. The funds will build a fourth station and pay the salaries of nine additional first responders. It would also pay for general expenses for all four stations with MIGCFR.
The state average is 22.3 mills, which is more than twice what MIGCFR currently gets and has been getting for two decades. Horry County is at 21 mills. Georgetown County is at 29 mills.
Many nearby businesses to the MIGCFR headquarters say they fully support the millage increase. "I think the taxes would be a huge benefit to the firefighters," says Sean English, the owner of Harrelson's Seafood Market. "Having an extra station, getting caught up with technology, safety for them is extremely important. We're completely behind it," English says.
There was already a $177,000 deficit approved this year. Fire leaders say cutting manpower would be considered the next option if the millage increase is not passed.
The fire department wants to be able to get to you within four to five minutes. To do this, it's absolutely necessary to open a fourth station. The fire department has owned the land since 2007. They wanted to build back in 2009 or 2010. Fire officials say when the recession hit, the growth in the area stopped, but it's growing again now at a rapid pace, and fire leaders say they need to build as soon as possible. If the vote passes, an architect already has preliminary plans drawn up and ready to go for the fourth station. Construction would start as soon as financing is in order, and leaders anticipate it being finished by summer of 2016.
Al Hitchcock, the chairman of the MIGCFR board, says residents would save money in the long run if the increase goes through. The yearly millage tax on the average Murrells Inlet home is $37.50. That's for a home valued at $235,000. The department has an ISO rating of two right now. If they were bumped to a one, home owners would save on home owner's insurance, and Hitchcock says that could save you anywhere from $100 to $250.
On the other hand, Hitchcock says the department cannot continue at a two ISO rating without the increase, because they cannot afford to stay at that high of a standard. If this vote doesn't go through and the ISO rating stays too high, you're looking at paying a lot more for home insurance in the near future.