By Paul Gable
Horry County Council will be discussing a 7.2 mil tax increase for the county’s general fund budget at its regular meeting next week.
The 7.2 mil increase equates to a 20% rise in taxes for the county’s general fund budget and $13.5 million in additional revenue.
After hearing a presentation from county staff about why the increase is needed and how it will be applied to operating expenses, council chairman Mark Lazarus directed staff to go forward with a planned 7.2 mil tax increase for second reading of the budget.
Second reading will be held at the June 2, 2015 regular council meeting. At this point, Horry County Council members appear to be evenly split on the Yes and No sides of the budget.
As it is currently planned, the increase will fund a 3% across the board pay increase for all county employees except for entry level public safety employees who will receive a 5% increase.
It is interesting that such a large tax increase is introduced into the Fiscal Year 2016 budget discussion just one month before the budget must be finalized.
Horry County Council passed first reading of the FY 2016 budget at its Spring Budget Retreat two months ago. The budget which passed first reading was balanced with no tax increase.
In the interim, Horry County Council approved a new four-year contract for county administrator Chris Eldridge which provides for a pay increase of $10,000 each year.
That contract reportedly spurred considerable outrage from county employees (and their spouses), especially public safety employees, who felt they were being ignored.
Now, it appears Horry County Council is attempting to calm the feelings of county employees on the backs of the taxpayers.
And those taxpayers generally work in the area with the lowest average income of 338 similar metropolitan area districts in North America. Horry County ranks just behind some areas in Mexico in those reports.
This tax increase is being rushed for the wrong reasons.
As council member Harold Worley pointed out, many of the taxpayers in Horry County earn less than the slightly over $35,000 per year starting wage for police officers included in the FY 2016 budget. And they don’t get the 12 paid holidays, two vacation weeks and 12 days of sick leave in the first year.
It’s hard to understand why government employees, paid completely out of tax revenue, should have pay and benefit packages better than most of the taxpayers funding their budget.
If the police officers or other county employees don’t like what they are being paid, let them go become hotel or convenience store clerks or restaurant workers. Not likely to happen even with no pay increase.
Horry County Council needs to take more time considering all options before approving a tax increase. It certainly needs to take more time than 30 days to push through a big tax increase on a knee jerk reaction to complaints.