By Paul Gable
During a council workshop Tuesday, Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus warned of a future tax increase to pay for increased needs for police services.
“As we continue to grow, the issues at public safety are going to continue to grow,” said Lazarus. “We’re going to need more personnel and it’s going to grow at a faster pace than our income is growing.”
Lazarus directed staff to study the possibility of establishing a special tax district in the unincorporated areas of the county to fund the police department similar to the way Horry County fire department personnel and equipment are currently funded.
“Move millage (currently used for police expenses) from the general fund to a public safety fund,” said Lazarus. “To raise millage in a public safety fund, I believe is much more palatable to the public than it is just arbitrarily raising general fund millage. I believe we’re going to be faced with that (millage increase) before long.”
“Whether you signed the tax pledge or not, I’m telling you ladies and gentlemen it’s coming because demands for services are growing at a higher rate than what our income is,” Lazarus said.
In this day of Grover Norquist pledges, it takes courage for a politician to talk about raising taxes, even if the need is obvious.
Of course, Norquist was introduced to Washington, D.C. by Jack Abramoff, so the Norquist pledge may be more in his own interests rather than the interests of the American people.
But, the bottom line is obvious. If an area is growing and citizens’ want public services to remain stable or improve, it’s going to take more revenue from public funds to realize that result.
“Income is growing at a lesser rate than our expenses are and at some time we’re going to have to fix it and we’re going to have to raise revenue somewhere and I don’t know where else we can do it,” Lazarus said.
The Horry County Council budget retreat is scheduled for March 24 – March 27, 2015. It is expected that staff will have at least a preliminary presentation on establishing a special tax district to fund police services.
Lazarus said he is going to pursue what is needed to meet the needs of the public. His proposal of a special tax district may bring more problems than it solves, but he, at least, wants to investigate the possibility.
“We may be opening Pandora’s Box, but we’re going to have to do it,” he said.
“Most politicians are interested in getting reelected rather than in doing what is needed,” Lazarus said. “I’m going to do what I believe is right and if people want to vote for someone else, that’s okay.”