Horry County Councilman Harold Worley

Horry County Councilman Harold Worley

Horry County officials on Monday pitched what they contend is a “good faith offer” to split hospitality tax revenues with local cities and build I-73.

But it’s unclear if the municipalities will accept the county’s terms.

County council members expect to formally vote on the proposal at their Tuesday meeting.

“Our chairman is offering a better deal than what they offered,” county councilman Harold Worley said, referring to a recent proposal from the city of Myrtle Beach. “I think they’ll jump on it.”

The county’s plan calls for the 1.5 percent hospitality fee to continue being collected countywide. However, county officials suggest dedicating $18 million of those revenues per year to build the county’s portion of I-73, a proposed interstate that would connect with I-95. The county’s plan would allow area leaders to borrow about $275 million over 30 years for the road’s construction, according to county projections.

After the $18 million comes off the top for I-73, county officials recommend dividing the remaining $24.5 million between the county and the municipalities. Under that system, the county would receive $9.8 million and $14.7 million would go to the cities. Any revenues collected above those projections would go to the community where the money was collected.

The 1.5 percent hospitality fee is collected on all prepared foods, hotel admissions and attraction tickets sold countywide.

State lawmakers passed legislation in 1997 allowing for the county to collect that money from city businesses and to use the money for tourism through a wide range of projects ranging from advertising to public safety and roadways. 

Weeks ago, Myrtle Beach started the process of cutting Horry County out as the collecting arm of the fees and taxes. North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach followed.

With the action of the three cities, county leaders doubt they can fulfill a commitment to the state Department of Transportation for $25 million annually to fund I-73. County leaders had also planned to spend $18 million of the hospitality fees on public safety.

Last week, county officials said they were willing to work with the cities on finding agreeable terms. 

But then the city voted to keep negotiations of the tax revenues confidential. County officials opposed that secrecy, saying the tax talks should take place in public.

Worley said county officials spent the last few days ironing out their latest offer to the cities. However, he said there haven’t been face-to-face discussions with city officials yet.

County leaders contend their proposal is better than some of the ideas floated by the city of Myrtle Beach. For example, the county projects the pot of available tax dollars would be nearly $14 million richer under the current system than if the cities dismantled it and created their own fee structure.

That’s because the 1.5 percent fee was approved under an old state law. The state does not allow that same level of taxation today.

Myrtle Beach officials have said they are willing to spend up to $7.5 million per year on I-73. But the county’s projections show the city would have more money for city-related projects under the county’s proposal. 

A city spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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I'm the editor of myhorrynews.com and the Carolina Forest Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Horry County, South Carolina. I cover county government, the justice system and agriculture. Know of a story that needs to be covered? Call me at 843-488-7236.

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