MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) - The Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire District motioned to raise the tax millage five points by way of referendum, but state legislators that represent the area said they want some questions answered first.
“We don’t have enough income to keep up with the requirements for additional responses and rising costs,” said George Oldroyd, chair of the Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire District’s board of directors.
The board held a meeting March 25 where, according to Oldroyd, members voted in favor of a 5 point millage increase, but over the course of four years. On Thursday, that vote was rescinded.
“It became clearer as we looked at the numbers again that we wouldn’t have enough money to do any of those projected programs," said Oldroyd.
Gene Connell, one of the members on the board, said the vote on March 25 to raise the millage increase gradually over the course of a few years, was unanimous.
He said a special meeting was called where two members voted in favor of a five point increase all at once, and two other members voted against it. The chairman ultimately broke the tie, voting in favor of the five point millage increase in the year 2020, according to both Oldroyd and Connell.
The district wants more funding to purchase a new ambulance and man it around the clock, which Oldroyd said is three shifts including a paramedic and a firefighter EMT.
On Thursday, Oldroyd said the board made a motion to increase the millage rate by five in 2020 by way of referendum, but a letter signed by S.C. Sen. Stephen Goldfinch and Rep. Russell Fry asked the district to wait until the audits for the last fiscal year are back.
The letter states:
“According to the financial audits for the years 2014 through 2017, the fire district took in enough revenue to not only fund $2.4 million in spending that was over and above the approved budgets, but to also generate a surplus of $1.1 million for the period."
It goes on to say the audits state that none of the budgets were amended to approve additional spending, and asked for a detailed explanation regarding how the spending was approved.
“One of the questions is how did they spend above what was budgeted?" said Goldfinch. “I don’t know how that’s possible. You have to spend within your budget.”
“Response is it’s inaccurate,” said Oldroyd. “However, I take it seriously. Any question from a citizen or our elected representatives is deserving of a studied response.”
Oldroyd said he read the letter and is open to answer any questions the public or the legislators have.