Horry County tax increase possible for fire protection

People living in unincorporated areas of Horry County could see an increase in taxes to support Horry County Fire Rescue.

In a 7 to 5 vote at Tuesday night's Horry County council meeting, a second reading of a six mill fire tax increase for residents within some areas of the county was passed.

"We are Horry County and we are one. We need to look out for each other. This is a county-wide issue. This isn't a rural issue. This isn't an urban issue. It's an Horry County issue, and this is what the people elected us to do," said Al Allen, a member of the county council.

The tax increase would not affect those living in Myrtle Beach, Conway, Surfside Beach and the Garden City-Murrells Inlet fire district.

Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Fred Crosby told council members if the fire tax increase doesn't happen, they would have to cut jobs and shut down fire stations throughout the county.

Chief Crosby, along with insurance professionals and real estate agents in the audience, also said the tax increase would be less of a burden on homeowners than an increase in insurance costs if county leaders don't act now.

He does, however, understand those on both sides of the situation.

"I also understand the people that had reservations on council. This was a very tough issue for all of them. And I'm glad that they came to a consensus so that now we know what direction to move in," Crosby said.

Crosby said with the extra money, Horry County Fire Rescue could replace and update its fleet of emergency vehicles, among many other things.

"We'll be able to staff more of our call centers to three men. We'll be able to increase the amount of money that we reimburse volunteers volunteers per call for their costs, and then we'll be able to do things like have a little bit of overtime money to let people be off and take vacation and things like that," Crosby said.

The motion still has to pass a third reading by county council before July 1st.