It may cost more to live in Myrtle Beach, but there will be more police officers and trash pickups as the city council gives the first of two nods to a $202 million budget.
If the budget is approved as is by July 1, property owners will face a three-mill tax increase.
Owner-occupied homes valued at $100,000 would see an $11 annual increase and those with a $500,000 home would see a $60 annual increase in taxes.
City Manager John Pedersen said the tax increase would fund the 10 new police officers, increased salary for existing officers and four new cruisers.
City residents had faced a three-mill tax increase last year to pay for the police initiative that calls for adding 10 officers per year for seven years as well increasing the salary for officers.
The police department’s initiative had a 14-mill projected increase in city property taxes. Pedersen said last month that he didn’t know if city residents could expect a three-mill increase annually for the duration of the seven-year initiative.
In addition to the tax hike, city residents will also be facing an increase in water and sewer rates of about $3 monthly or $39 annually.
Michelle Shumpert, the city’s financial management director, said the 7% increase in water rates and 5% increase in sewage rates is to offset the increase in fees Grand Strand Water and Sewer is charging the city.
Also, there will be an increase on the residents’ solid waste bill of about $4.75.
Residents’ utility bills include water, sewer and solid waste services.
Shumpert said the solid waste bill increase is necessary because the city’s population is growing and the current staff is at capacity keeping up with the pickups. Also, she added, the city is addressing orphan waste left behind and ways to recoup the cost of picking up the trash.
Orphan waste includes couches, mattresses and tires left on the side of public right-of-ways.
Solid waste includes household garbage, recycling, bulk and yard waste.
Shumpert said the solid waste bill increase would pay for a new six-person crew and four vehicles. There is also an addition to the staff of one person to deal with code enforcement dealing with orphan waste.
The budget does not include a cost-of-living increase for the city’s staff of 968 full-time employees. Shumpert said 54% of the full-time employees are public safety including those with the police and fire departments.
The public safety portion of the budget pie comes up to 28% followed by community and economic development at 20%.
Shumpert said about $125,000 is set aside for an engineering and design study to be done on a new city hall complex. Last year, the city began looking into purchasing the former First Presbyterian Church located at 1300 North Kings Highway.
Last September, the city agreed to pay $15,000 as part of an option-to-purchase agreement taking the church off the market and giving the city the exclusive right to buy the 50,000-square-foot church. The deadline on the option-to-purchase agreement is Dec. 31. As part of that agreement, the city has been paying $5,000 a month that will be applied to the $2.8 million building purchase price. If the city choses not to buy the old church, the money is nonrefundable.
Mike Shelton, the city’s chief financial officer, told the city council there is $202.6 million in outstanding debt that is due to be paid off by 2034 with a fixed 3.261% interest rate.
Councilman Phil Render looked back at the 2010 budget and noted a 62.5% increase in public safety spending and an 80% decrease in owner-occupied property taxes.
Ann A. Dunham was the lone voice from the public comments section of the budget hearing.
“You need to rethink this tax and spending attitude,” she said urging the council to vote against the budget and adopt a more pay-as-you-go approach.
The council approved the first reading to the budget unanimously.
The city council will meet again on Thursday, June 6 in a workshop setting at the Myrtle Beach Sports Center behind the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.