By Paul Gable
The New Year is starting out in strange fashion for Horry County Council as its first meeting will be held Thursday night.
Regular council meetings are normally held the first and third Tuesday’s of each month. I understand scheduling conflicts for some of the members moved the first meeting in January two days.
The New Year is starting out where last year left off as far as changes with council are concerned.
Horry County experienced a 44% turnover rate in council membership in 2015 with three new members elected to begin the year and two more new members joining the council in special elections during 2015.
The last of those new members, Jimmy Washington from District 3, won election December 22nd and will be attending his first meeting Thursday night.
The two newest members, Washington and Cam Crawford from District 6, won special elections for unexpired terms that end this year. They will be facing re-election contests in 2016.
But, it wasn’t just membership that changed on Horry County Council in 2015.
In my opinion, there was a rather cavalier attitude toward spending the people’s money that was much more disturbing.
Not only did a majority of council pass the largest property tax increase in county history in 2015, they also increased road vehicle tax by 67%.
Later in the year, when it was discovered the Ride II penny sales tax brought in excess revenue, there was no thought as to how that money could be used for road maintenance and repair.
Rather, council voted to use a considerable portion of that money to buy a new public safety radio system.
On the surface, this seemed like a necessary purchase. However, the old system was in place since approximately 1992 with a projected life of 25 years. Throughout that 25 year period, not only was no provision made in the budget for its eventual replacement, but also new communications equipment was added on nearly an annual basis with new expense of tax dollars each time.
Five council seats will be up for election in 2016, but only one, Gary Loftus in District 4, voted for the tax increase.
The cavalier spending of the people’s money can’t be changed at the ballot box this year.
We can only hope that some of these members of council who portray themselves as small government, fiscally conservative Republicans will actually start to vote that way.