Horry County leaders avoid new taxes, plan to open county employee wellness center

Photo from previous Horry County Council meeting.

PINOPOLIS, SC (WBTW) – Horry County Administrator Chris Eldridge says county residents will not experience a tax increase in the coming year.

Horry County leaders are in Pinopolis, SC for their annual budget retreat.

While there is no planned tax increase, there will likely be a hike in costs from the Solid Waste Authority.

The authority is asking for a $7 increase per ton, but Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus says that money should be taken out of individual budgets within the county and won’t directly impact tax payers.

“Every municipality I’ve talked to so far is going to absorb that within their budgets,” confirms Lazarus. “I don’t think it’s going to be a major issue for us at our recycling centers throughout the county either. We want see any real increases. It will just impact our internal budget.”

Another change county leaders are looking to make involves healthcare offered to county employees. Council members argue that overall county employees are unhealthy and a new employee wellness center would change that.

An update to the wellness center was delivered during the first day of the county’s budget retreat. Leaders say the center is expected to open late July or early August.

The center was made possible by the county after funds were put aside in last year’s budget. The center will be used for all county employees for any basic health needs for which they’d ordinarily go to the doctor.

“As our consultants have told us, we’re an unhealthy workforce and we need to get our workers focused more on their health,” confirms Lazarus. “The healthier they are, the better productivity they have for us and better lives they have and the lower our insurance rates could possibly be.”

Several council members said they’d also like to see the county move away from the state’s healthcare plan because of increased costs.

Council member Johnny Vaught says making the change would save the county money, but he could say exactly how much the savings would be.

“We don’t know yet. So much of it depends on how healthy our workforce is and the rates change so fast with our other insurers and stuff so we haven’t got quite there yet,” says Vaught. “We feel like if we get our workforce healthy enough, we’ll be able to save a substantial amount by doing that.”

County administrator Eldridge told council if they move forward with the health insurance change, they need to look at ways to monitor employees’ health to make sure they’re taking care of themselves.

Eldridge says if tax payers are paying for it, county employees need to be sure they’re doing as much as they can independently to stay healthy.