2015 News for Pawleys Island, Litchfield and Murrells Inlet
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Murrells Inlet: Light turnout expected for fire tax referendum

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Voters in the Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District vote Tuesday on a referendum to decide whether to raise the tax rate for the fire and rescue service.

Elections officials and supporters of the measure expect the turnout to be light.

The vote comes two years after the board of the fire district, which is a state-created special purpose district, tried to get the legislature to raise its millage rate.

After Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed an increase last year, state Sen. Ray Cleary got an opinion from the state Attorney General’s Office that the fire district board could hold a referendum under a state law passed after the district was created.

Voters will decide whether to allow the board to raise the cap on fire taxes from 10 to 14 mills. A mill equals $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

If the referendum is approved the maximum tax increase on an owner-occupied $232,500 home – the median value in the district – would be $37.20, according to Tom Swatzel, who chairs Friends of Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire and Rescue. Information provided by the district estimates fire insurance premium hikes of between $230 and $4,285 per year on the same home if the district’s ISO rating worsens to a class 5 or 10 respectively. The district recently saw its rating from the Insurance Service Office improve to Class 2.

The referendum has support from a range of state and local officials, including state Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, who opposed the increase in the legislature.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In the Georgetown County portion of the district, Murrells Inlet 1 and 4 in will vote at the Community Center, Murrells Inlet 2 votes at Gordon Chapel AME Church and Murrells Inlet 3 votes at the fire station.

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