Override Murrells Inlet Garden City Beach Fire District veto

  • Friday, June 13, 2014

It's good to know that Gov. Nikki Haley is not opposed to the needs of a fire district, but she has an odd way of showing it.

With her veto of S293, a bill that would allow the Murrells Inlet Garden City Beach Fire District to raise its state established millage cap from 10 mills to 14, she has essentially told the residents and businesses in the district that their needs are second to hers and a pledge not to raise taxes.

At best, she is misguided, at worst, she is ignorant, but whichever it is, the people who call the district home are losers.

The governor contends that the bill, introduced by Sen. Ray Cleary, “allows a fire district to increase taxes without voter approval, setting a precedent for other districts to do the same.”

Well, with all due respect, Governor, that's not quite the way it works in this district that spans two counties.

When the district was founded in 1966, the General Assembly set the rules for the board – which essentially is appointed by the legislature – and the method it must use should it need additional funding.

It can go to the voters, but a referendum and its vote is not binding. The obligation and responsibility rests with lawmakers.

And the lawmakers in this instance have spoken.

The bill to increase the millage cap sailed through the Senate and squeaked through the House.

Before the bill even went to lawmakers, the fire district board faced the voters with a series of public meetings.

And, guess what, Governor: Those who attended the meetings were overwhelmingly in favor of the millage increase.

They were even willing to accept a 10-mill cap increase, 6 mills beyond what lawmakers approved.

To be sure, not everyone in the district is backing the millage hike, but no one can fault the board of directors for not making the case for the increase to the constituents.

Individually and as a group the board members took their concerns to civic groups and the public who would be affected.

And one by one, those groups and individuals mostly approved what the district board was trying to do.

Those meetings were covered in this newspaper as well as others. Back door? Not quite. More like an open door.

And speaking of open doors, the fire district board opted to answer every question put to it as honestly and completely as it could. It did this in person – not through a half-baked explanation on Facebook or another social media site.

You, Governor, can point to the more than 3,500 “likes” your post on the veto drew and the comments that overwhelmingly favor your action.

But as everyone who goes through the South Carolina school system knows, you can't believe everything you read on the Internet.

And frankly, Governor, your explanation of the district and its request for a lifting of the millage cap left out some basic facts and got some wrong – most notably that the district stakeholders were not informed.

No one can deny the growth in the South Strand, the area that fire district serves, nor can they miss the change in the focus of the district, from strictly firefighting to now including ambulance and paramedic service.

She is the governor and has the veto pen in hand. The only thing we can hope is that she wields it wisely based on fact, not fiction.

Oh, one more thing: We do agree with the Governor's exhortation to call and write your senator and representative on this issue...to tell your lawmaker to vote to override the veto.

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