Special session vote may mean more in taxes for fire protection

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014

By today, residents within the Murrells Inlet Garden City Fire District will know whether they will be paying more in taxes for fire protection.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell called the S.C. House of Representatives back into special session Aug. 27 to vote on an override of Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of a Senate bill that would allow the district to raise its millage rate from 10 mills to 14. The Senate voted to override the veto but the House adjourned in June before taking a vote. Because the bill originated in the Senate, the upper chamber was given first dibs on the override.

The House override depends on whether there was a quorum and a two-thirds affirmative vote by those in attendance.

“I’m pretty confident,” said state Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Surfisde Beach, who led the House effort to approve the bill, introduced by state Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet.

“We’ve talked to a number of outstate lawmakers who didn’t understand that this bill would not affect their districts. It’s limited to the Murrells Inlet-Garden City area.”

However, Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, said he is opposed to the override, citing the fire district’s surplus funds.

Fire district officials had contended that without a fourth station, it was possible that the insurance raters would raise the ratings for the district because of the distance residences are from a fire station.

Fire district officials have consistently said that the additional millage is needed in part to staff and build a fourth fire station on McDowell Shortcut Road, which would serve the high-growth area west of 17 Bypass.

When the fire district was created, the General Assembly retained oversight over it, including the right to name members of the board of directors and to set the millage rate. Because the fire district spans two counties, it could not rely on lawmakers in just one county to establish the rules.

While lawmakers have given the OK to raise the millage cap to 14 mills, the fire district board has said it would use only two mills – $2 for each $1,000 of assessed valuation of property.

The fire district millage cap override is the second of two items on the House agenda.

Another override question would decide whether public libraries would have the right to keep out disrupters.

The session is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Southstrandnews.com will post the results of the override.

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