Post Tagged with: "Johnny Vaught"

Horry County Council Budget Resolutions

July 7, 2015 6:30 AM
Horry County Council Budget Resolutions

Horry County Council will consider two resolutions at its meeting tonight to complete this fiscal year’s budget process.

The resolutions will be to approve funding agreements with the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation for two years and with Coast RTA for one year.

These votes will be the final acts of contempt toward county taxpayers in a budget year that brings the largest property tax increase in a generation.

Led by the Republican ‘Gang of Five’ (Mark Lazarus, Al Allen, Johnny Vaught, Gary Loftus and Bill Howard), Horry County Council chose to raise property taxes by 7.2 mils ($13.5 million) without even considering during budget considerations whether funding should be cut for the MBREDC and Coast RTA.

Of course, MBREDC and Coast RTA funding weren’t the only possible savings in a $130 million general fund budget that could have been looked at.

It was just easier for the Republican ‘Gang of Five’ to raise taxes than to go through the details of the budget.

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Horry County Council Budget Failures

June 23, 2015 5:00 AM
Horry County Council Budget Failures

The latest development at MBREDC indicates how casually Horry County Council approached raising taxes this year.

Jim Moore, President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, resigned from that agency Monday.

Moore came to MBREDC only six months ago after the three plus year dismal reign of Brad Lofton. During the four year period represented by these two, MBREDC allegedly reorganized itself with a new approach to attracting jobs to Horry County.

Neither Moore nor Lofton was any more successful in economic development recruitment than the former iteration of MBREDC or Partners Economic Development Corporation before it.

The difference is the current four year MBREDC 2.0 has been receiving serious funding from Horry County Council, between $1.3 million to $1.8 million per year of taxpayer dollars, with little to nothing to show for it.

Think of AvCraft, Project Blue and PTR Industries as the poster children of MBREDC efforts.

Over the past five county budget cycles, MBREDC has received at least $7.5 million from Horry County Council to fund its few employees and other operational costs.

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Horry County Council Tax Explosion

June 17, 2015 7:00 AM
Horry County Council Tax Explosion

It is now official, the tax and spend Republicans on Horry County Council passed the largest tax increase in a generation last night.

Nothing changed from the budget that passed at second reading. There will be a countywide tax increase of 7.2 mils more for the general fund. The countywide road fee increased from $30 to $50 per vehicle and county building permit fees increased.

The Republican “Gang of Five” who voted to increase taxes consists of chairman Mark Lazarus, and council members Al Allen, Johnny Vaught, Bill Howard and Gary Loftus. Democrat James Frazier made the sixth vote in the 6-5 decision.

Of the six members who voted for it, five (all but Loftus) were elected to their current terms in November 2014, so it will be over three years before they have to face the voters for reelection. There is speculation Loftus may not be planning to run again so his term ending next year may not matter in having to answer for being a tax and spender.

Despite campaign pledges to “oppose new taxes”, “keep property taxes low”, “listen to the taxpayers” and support TEA Party goals, Lazarus, Vaught, Howard and Allen (respectively) make the term conservative Republican virtually extinct in Horry County and, in their particular cases, an oxymoron.

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Towering Political Egos

June 14, 2015 5:10 AM
Towering Political Egos

Towering political egos are the bane of sensible political discussion and of the ability of a politician to take a reflective look at him or herself.

It doesn’t take long for the average politician to believe that anyone criticizing them is wrong by definition and that any criticism of them is a mean-spirited personal attack.

Too often this attitude is the result of an inner insecurity that is masked by a false confidence and arrogance.

No, this isn’t meant to be a column on the psychology of politicians. The above is merely an expression of my conclusions over many years of observing the political scene, criticizing many statements, decisions and votes and watching the reactions of those politicians involved.

Word has reached me that I bruised a few egos again this week.

Evidently I hurt some feelings when I called Cam Crawford the stealth candidate for dodging candidate forums in the current Horry County Council District 6 Republican special primary campaign.

I have even been told Crawford’s wife, Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, was making statements about being mad not only at me, but also at political consultant Donald Smith.

Mad at me for writing that Cam should not be a political candidate if he was unwilling to answer questions from the public and engage voters and the other candidates and mad at Smith for not stopping me from writing those statements.

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Stop the Horry County Council Tax Increase

June 12, 2015 7:54 AM
Stop the Horry County Council Tax Increase

The tax increase FY 2016 budget of Horry County Council remains a major topic of conversation throughout the county.

Council will vote on third reading of what could be the largest Horry County tax increase in a generation at its regular meeting Tuesday June 16, 2015.

Why it all became necessary within the last month is the real story.

During both the fall and spring budget retreats of Horry County Council, as well as first reading of the budget, the discussion was of a balanced budget with no tax increase.

Then, council voted a new contract for county administrator Chris Eldridge with annual pay increases of $10,000 and a six month severance package. The only thing Eldridge is guaranteed is the severance package as council can vote to terminate him at any time, but, if he remains for several years, he will receive annual increases of $10,000.

Upset at the possible pay increases for Eldridge, the county employees, especially those in public safety departments, began an organized campaign of calling council members to complain.

A majority of Horry County Council members were intimidated enough to completely restructure the budget to include somewhere in excess of $4 million for a pay increase for all county employees. (The county has still not answered our request for the total amount being dedicated to the pay increase.)

To mask their intimidation, those council members supporting the tax increase have verbalized things like a shrinking excess reserve fund and the need to better pay public safety employees as their justification for the tax increase.

But, nothing has really changed from first reading of the budget. No tax increase is needed this year. And nothing in the budget increase will pay for new HCPD patrol officers meaning no reduction in response times or increased community policing will result from this massive increase.

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Horry County Council Tax Explosion

June 3, 2015 1:00 AM
Horry County Council Tax Explosion

Horry County Council is spending your tax dollars like a bunch of drunken sailors making a port call.

The council voted 6-5 to amend the FY 2016 budget to include a countywide tax increase of 7.2 mils for the general fund, to increase the business license fees and to raise the road fee to $50 for every vehicle registered in the county.

Council chairman Mark Lazarus was joined by council members Al Allen, Bill Howard, Johnny Vaught, Gary Loftus, and James Frazier in voting yes for the tax increase.

This is an increase of 20% on general fund operating millage and 67% on the vehicle road fee. The increase of 7.2 mils for the general fund is the maximum limit allowed by state law or council probably would have gone higher.

This comes on top of a 6 mil tax increase (50%) for the fire fund in all the unincorporated areas of the county approved two years ago.

And not that many years before, council added 3 mils (100%) to the waste recycling fee in the unincorporated areas of the county.

It used to be if you lived in the city you could expect fairly routine tax increases, albeit for a higher level of services. Now, that holds true for tax increases in the unincorporated areas of Horry County just not for the level of services.

To paraphrase former Republican senator Everett Dirksen, a few mils here, a few mils there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.

Of course, Dirksen was speaking against federal tax and spend programs.

In Horry County, it’s the Republicans who have proudly become the tax and spend party.

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