HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) –All Horry County employees, including law enforcement officers, will receive raises under the county's proposed 2018-2019 budget, and while the Horry County Police Department has eliminated its School Resource Officer positions for Horry County Schools, no patrol officer positions have been eliminated in the next year's budget.
"We didn't fire anybody," said Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus. "There were several that left because they said, 'I want to be an SRO I don't want to be a regular patrol officer.' Most of them worked nine months for the schools then they would work camps during the summertime or they would take vacation during that period time. So they really didn't work fully as patrol officers. So we didn't eliminate any positions, we're not eliminating any positions. We took the ones that were SRO officers and moved them into our vacancy variances to - our vacancy variances for patrol officers were filled."
Horry County Schools opted not to renew their contract with HCPD for SROs at district schools, opting instead to hire armed security guards. So, Horry County removed those 24 SRO positions from the budget, and moved them to other positions in the department.
"We had vacancy variances on the other side which were patrol officers," Lazarus explained. "So, all of those officers that wanted to move over, they moved over as patrol officers and filled our vacancy variances for those positions. We eliminated the SRO positions because we don't have them anymore."
Lazarus emphasized that the county did not cut patrol officer positions, and they have the same number of patrol officers in this year's budget as last year's.
"We have a full complement of patrol officers, there was not cutting," he said. "The only thing we did was eliminate SRO's in our budget because we no longer do that."
He said that the HCPD has the same number of officers in the 2018-2019 budget as it hard in the 2017-2018 budget. Last year, there were 131 HCPD officer positions. This year, there are 107, counting the 24 SRO positions that were cut.
"We haven't cut any allocated patrol officers - the only thing we cut was SROs because that program was cut, but no body lost their jobs," Lazarus added.
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He said that the proposed budget does provide an increase in salaries for all police officers at HCPD.
"It's a by the hour amount, so what it will do is if it's passed: it will raise for the sheriff's department, detention and Horry County Police Department," Lazarus explained. "It will actually raise those salaries up to where they're competitive with Myrtle Beach Police salaries."
He said these raises for law enforcement officers will be paid for by changes to how Coast RTA is funded.
"What it's going to come from is - we're taking the million and $50,000 that we pay for Coast RTA and we're moving that over to the general fund, which pays for your police officers," Lazarus explained. "And then we're going to allocate $6.50 of our road fee…which comes when you register your car, which is allowed by law that's the only place you can actually fund a transportation authority is our of that. We're going to take $6.50 out it and allocate that as permanent funding to Coast RTA."
He said the raise will apply to both the starting rate and to existing employees.
"It will help us with retention and it should help us with recruiting," Lazarus said.
Lazarus said that all Horry County employees will also be getting a raise, an average about 3 percent, but that may vary.
"All employees of Horry County - we're on a merit based system now which we started last year," he said. "So the average is going to be about 3 percent so just about every employee throughout Horry County is going to get at least a 3 percent depending on their grade level. Some might get 2 percent , some might get 4 percent but we know it will average somewhere around 3 percent."
Lazarus said they have a separate proposal for the county fire department personnel and paramedics that's not currently in their proposed budget.