By Paul Gable
It is now official, the tax and spend Republicans on Horry County Council passed the largest tax increase in a generation last night.
Nothing changed from the budget that passed at second reading. There will be a countywide tax increase of 7.2 mils more for the general fund. The countywide road fee increased from $30 to $50 per vehicle and county building permit fees increased.
The Republican “Gang of Five” who voted to increase taxes consists of chairman Mark Lazarus, and council members Al Allen, Johnny Vaught, Bill Howard and Gary Loftus. Democrat James Frazier made the sixth vote in the 6-5 decision.
Of the six members who voted for it, five (all but Loftus) were elected to their current terms in November 2014, so it will be over three years before they have to face the voters for reelection. There is speculation Loftus may not be planning to run again so his term ending next year may not matter in having to answer for being a tax and spender.
Despite campaign pledges to “oppose new taxes”, “keep property taxes low”, “listen to the taxpayers” and support TEA Party goals, Lazarus, Vaught, Howard and Allen (respectively) make the term conservative Republican virtually extinct in Horry County and, in their particular cases, an oxymoron.
Of the $13.5 million this tax increase is expected to raise in new revenue, $8 million will go to replenish a dwindling EXCESS reserve fund and $3 million will go to a pay increase for the 1,631 county employees paid from the general fund.
Very little of the new tax revenue will actually go to benefit taxpayers.
The city budgets will get a bump from the actions of Horry County Council last night. The increase in road fees will provide an additional $1 million to the City of Myrtle Beach and lesser, but significant amounts of tax dollars to North Myrtle Beach and Surfside.
For those of you who don’t know, 85% of the road fee collected on vehicles registered within incorporated municipalities are returned to those municipalities as a result of a dual taxation lawsuit over 20 years ago.
Maybe that’s only fair because city taxpayers don’t get the benefits of county police services, especially Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside.
At least 25% of the county’s general fund pays the personnel, equipment and associated costs of the Horry County Police Department.
Therefore, city taxpayers will pay significantly more taxes, much of which will not benefit them at all.
If Myrtle Beach, especially, does not immediately file a dual taxation lawsuit against Horry County for a reduction in the millage that is directly associated with Horry County Police Department funding, it doesn’t really care about its taxpaying citizens and business owners.
This budget was put together hastily with little study and thought despite the propaganda that was heard from Lazarus and Allen last night. The misrepresentations in their ‘faux soliloquys’ were myriad.
As council member Harold Worley said, “We can run this county without a tax increase regardless of what the propaganda is.”
But, that was not to be. The tax and spend Republican “Gang of Five” was intent on a big tax increase this year so the voters will, hopefully, forget all about it by reelection time when they can lie to you again about being conservatives.
They want to be big heroes to the county employees now while hoping they can use their ‘conservative speak’ to hoodwink voters again in 2018.
And to digress for a moment, I have gotten quite tired of listening to Allen pontificate on “doing the right thing” especially for public safety employees.
I only wish he was of that mindset 15 years ago when the illegal events in Horry County surrounding the Southern Holdings case were perpetrated by county police officers and sheriff deputies as well as solicitors and attorneys. The Southern Holdings plaintiffs were anything but safe from Horry County public safety employees.