CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — A 4.3 mil property tax increase, 5% pay raises for all employees and 120 new positions are included in a proposed $767 million budget being discussed Thursday by Horry County leaders.
The budget would be a 13% increase over the current one. The new budget goes into effect on July 1.
The proposed tax increase would result in the owner of a $250,000 home in an unincorporated area of Horry County paying an additional $43 in taxes annually. Property owners in Myrtle Beach or other municipalities would only pay $33 more because they would not be paying for county fire service.
Wage inflation also dominated discussions Thursday morning.
“One key element here is that we do need to be very thoughtful of us the employment environment that we’re in today, Barry Spivey, the county’s assistant administrator. “We must remain competitive in terms of our ability to retain our employees and our ability to attract new employees to recruit.”
The draft accounts for 43 new police positions. Half would fill staff at the incoming 5th precinct in Carolina Forest. The other half would be flexible positions across patrol, SWAT or environmental.
“When we add police officers in any area of the county, it, in essence, will take and reduce the precinct size of all the other precincts that we have within the county,” said Barry Spivey, assistant Horry County administrator of administration. “So in essence, by making this addition, we’re adding services to every resident of Horry County.”
Construction of the 5th Precinct is set to begin late this summer.
The draft budget also outlines additional fire and EMS staff. The budget calls for 38 new hires for fire rescue, which would work in the Shell and Nixonville stations.
Twenty-two would be firefighters and 16 would fill EMS positions.
“Right now we have 1 EMS crew for every 15,000 residents of the county,” Spivey said. “We’re growing by 15,000 residents every year, so we are really at the point where, to make that work, we need to add a crew every year.”
Horry County Fire Rescue is also looking to replace some trucks from the early 2000s. The department estimates it would cost roughly $9 million to order new trucks over the next two years.
Chief Joseph Tanner said it’s an upfront cost to get ahead of supply chain delays and increasing prices.
“Used to be I could buy a fire engine for 180 days,” Tanner said. “It would be bought, purchased, and put online. Then it got to be up to a year. Now we’re talking two years, three years, four years, or five years out.”
County council approved a resolution to allocate a little more than $3 million toward the purchases, that way the department can immediately start ordering new trucks with the rest of the money slated for the next cycle.
The numbers discussed Thursday morning are not final and are likely to change before the county council has the first reading of the budget later on Thursday. The third and final reading is scheduled for June 6.
News13’s Manny Martinez is covering Thursday’s daylong budget retreat for county leaders and will have complete coverage during our afternoon and evening newscasts.