By Paul Gable
Tonight, Horry County Council will consider second reading and public review of an ordinance to use leftover Ride II funds for public safety radios.
That’s correct. In 2006, county council asked voters to tax themselves an extra penny on purchases in order to build or improve roads in the county.
Now that funds are leftover, council is trying to make up for years of ill-considered decisions about radios for the public safety division.
There doesn’t seem to be one budget year that goes by without millions of dollars of requests for new radios and supporting equipment.
Next year, Motorola, the manufacturer the county has used for a number of years, will stop supporting the radio system currently used by the county, causing the latest funding crisis.
State law allows capital projects sales tax excess funds to go into the county’s general fund to be spent as council decides.
However, we live in a county that just raised the road maintenance tax by 67% a few months ago. This will add approximately $3 million dollars per year to road maintenance and dirt road paving.
Yes, I know it says road fees on your vehicle property tax bill, but whenever money goes from your pocket to the government, it is a tax regardless of what it is called.
If council decided instead to use the excess Ride II funds for road projects, as the voters initially approved, the road maintenance tax increase could be rolled back for at least five years.
Council members say this is a justified expense of extra Ride II dollars. It is a legal one and the money for radios will have to come from somewhere.
But, we are in this predicament because of terrible decisions by county staff and Horry County Council through the years.
Council raised county general fund property taxes by 7.2 mils, or 25%, just a few months ago in addition to the 67% increase in road taxes.
Now, instead of using excess Ride II funds to give the taxpayers some relief from those tax increases, council wants to use the money to make up for past mistakes.
Horry County Council better get much more fiscally responsible or wholesale change should be the order of the day in next year’s election.