Horry County Budget: More police officers, library employees and raises all around

Horry County Council passed their final reading of the county's $130 million dollar budget Tuesday night. Among the highlights, eight new police officers, the first raise for county employees in four years, and no tax increases.

Horry County Interim Police Chief Saundra Rhodes says two of the officers are funded by the accommodations tax and will patrol the beach. The other six, will cost $357,000 and come from the general fund. Four officers will exclusively patrol the Carolina Forest area in the south precinct. The remaining two will be internal positions within the department.

"The population has increased, and the number of officers has decreased," Rhodes told council Tuesday night.

The new positions, Rhodes said, are to make up for positions that were cut from the budget back in 2009.

Rhodes said the department solves major crimes, like murders and sexual assaults. She added the way current staffing is, officers can only be call responsive on small crimes, like theft, that affect the majority of residents.

In addition to the six new officers, Rhodes said she is considering downgrading some lieutenants in order to put more officers on the streets.

The officers would be hired at staggered times to keep the costs as low as possible. Three would be hired on Oct. 1, and the other three would be hired on Jan. 1, 2013.

Council also approved funding for two full-time, and two part-time staff members at the Carolina Forest library. They also amended the budget to give $35,000 in funding to the Chapin Library in Myrtle Beach. That amendment passed on an 8-4 vote, with council members Al Allen, Bob Grabowski, Jody Prince and Paul Prince casting the "nay" votes.

Horry County employees will receive their first pay increase in four years. The raise is a 1 percent cost of living increase. The raise will cost more than $700,000 for the county's roughly 1,800 employees.

The new budget takes effect July 1.