By Paul Gable
The tax increase being discussed by Horry County Council appears much less necessary than those council members supporting it would have us believe.
The proposed 7.2 mil increase for the general fund budget is being billed as a public safety increase.
It is not.
Included in the 7.2 mil tax increase is an across the board pay raise of at least 3% for all county employees.
While it is nice for any employee to get a pay raise, the question must be asked is it fair and equitable to charge county taxpayers extra taxes to satisfy county employees’ desire for a pay raise?
Council member Harold Worley spoke on the central issue of this question during Wednesday’s county council budget workshop.
“The people of Horry County are not making this type of money,” Worley said.
What Worley was referring to was the average pay scale for Horry County private sector employees.
According to Horry County budget documents, with the tax increase included, the county would pay $93.256 million for personal services to its employees in next year’s budget. Personal services are pay and benefits for employees.
According to the same statistics, the county has 1,631 employees paid out of general fund revenue.
These statistics equate to an average of $57,177 per employee in pay and benefits in next year’s budget. Included in that average is the portion of the employee health insurance premium paid by the county (ranging from $476 per month for a single employee to a high of $1034 per month for full family coverage) and an average of $3,714 per employee as the county’s annual contribution to the employee retirement plan.
Taking the benefit portion out of the numbers still leaves a base salary average of $42k-$48k per year per county employee. In addition, county employees enjoy 12 paid holidays each year, begin with two weeks’ paid vacation and 12 paid sick days per year.
These averages are far from what could be considered ‘balancing the budget on the backs of the employees’.
As Worley said, “The people of Horry County are not making this type of money.” Nor have those types of paid benefits we might add.
Levying new taxes for a county employee pay raise is a reverse Robin Hood tax where you tax those who earn less in the private sector to give a raise to those who earn more from public tax dollars.
For those county employees who disagree, we challenge them to go work for a hotel, convenience store, restaurant or retail outlet and see what you get.