The referendum on a property tax increase to fund the Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District has been postponed indefinitely.
Local residents were set to vote on the 6 millage tax increase on July 24, but the fire district’s board of directors voted on Thursday to delay the referendum. Secretary George Oldroyd said the board is currently not certain what date it will be postponed to.
“People can count on having no tax increase as of this moment for the next year,” he said.
According to Oldroyd, the fire district does not have official financial records detailing its spending and incomes, for at least the last three years. The department’s last financial audit was in 2014.
“We knew that we had fallen behind, but we had expectations in the spring time that these reports would be available in plenty of time prior to the referendum,” said Oldroyd.
He said the fire district is not legally required to have those financial reports to hold the referendum, but the board believes the public has a right to that information before voting on a tax increase to fund the department.
“There certainly has been no clamor for that information but we know it’s not available and, out of abundance of caution, with respect to the public’s right to know, it was decided to hold off,” he said.
Given the population growth in the area, and resulting 32% increase in emergency medical calls for the fire district, over the last three years, Oldroyd said “they of course are disappointed as are we.”
The board is currently searching for accounting firms to perform an audit, but according to Oldroyd, the audit could take months to a year. This would push off the proposed purchase of a new ambulance, as well as the recruitment of more personnel.
“It looks like that will not happen in 2019. That will be set back a year,” he said.
The board of directors has written to the voter registration boards for Horry and Georgetown Counties, requesting to postpone the referendum. They are currently waiting for their response.