We’ve long argued that local leaders shouldn’t default to a tax increase when faced with a budget shortfall.

But as Horry County continues to grow — the population is expected to reach 500,000 by the end of the decade — modest increases seem likely, if not necessary.

Why? Because the growth from the new rooftops popping up countywide isn’t covering the cost of the services those residents demand. And while it’s easy to blast county officials for not making difficult cuts — or approving so many rezoning requests for new subdivisions — citizens must decide what type of government they want. Do they want a shoestring public safety operation with eternal response times or modern police, fire and EMS departments that can keep up with the needs of a growing community?

The county’s operation has been historically lean, but that’s also led to frustration from first responders who in recent years made improving public safety pay and benefits part of the political conversation.

County leaders have also taken notice of the employee compensation offered by area municipalities. To their credit, they’ve tried to keep county salaries comparable in a competitive market.

But that requires resources and the growth just isn’t covering those expenses. That’s why county officials are considering a tax hike.

Last week, Horry County Council took its first vote on a budget that would include a tax hike — about $45 more per year for an owner-occupied home worth $250,000. That’s actually a smaller hike than the one county leaders proposed last year, but no increase is insignificant, especially in an era of high inflation.

Yet given the situation, it’s difficult to see any way for the county to maintain services during this time without such an increase.



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