North Myrtle Beach sign

North Myrtle Beach's new sign at the Main Street Connector and Highway 17. Photo by Christian Boschult 

North Myrtle Beach City Council on Monday passed final reading of its $89 million Fiscal Year 2021 budget starting June 1 that includes a tax increase and about $30 million in cuts to delay projects the city was planning during its February budget retreat.

The budget cuts are due to COVID-19. City officials are expecting a drop in tourism this summer, as many Americans have put their travel plans on hold.

Already, governors of several states have warned their residents against coming to the Grand Strand due to growing numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and other states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are making any travelers coming from South Carolina self-quarantine for 2 weeks, although city leaders are trying to make the area safer by passing a mask mandate ordinance on Tuesday.

Research has shown visitors are more likely to travel to areas that are taking more precautions to slow the spread of the viral disease.

“We’ve certainly already seen less income and we foresee in the future, this year, less income,” said North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley. “We run on a very tight budget anyway, so we felt like it was best for our community. We’d rather spend our monies on providing the services that we give our people and put our special projects on hold.”

The $30,250,000 in cuts to the original FY21 proposal includes:

• $6.5 million in water and sewer projects 

• $9.5 million for a new ocean outfall at 18 th Avenue North

• $2 million for a new Emergency Operations Center on Champions Boulevard 

• $1.75 million for the Cherry Grove underground utility project 

• $8 million for construction on the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex 

• $2.5 million in cuts to 41 full-time positions

Ten of the 41 employees were laid off this year due to COVID-19 cuts and aren’t immediately being rehired, said city spokesman Pat Dowling. The rest are current vacant positions and new positions in city’s February budget proposal, which will go unfilled. But in the event the economy turns around, the budget says, “these positions may be reinstated during the year as funding improves and work loads require additional labor.” 

The city also cancelled its $25,000 Fourth of July fireworks show in Cherry Grove. 

The 7.9 mil tax increase was originally proposed as a way to pay off 96 acres of land the city bought last year to expand the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sport Complex, and also to fund the construction of amenities in the park, like a proposed arcade and soccer fields.

Those new amenities have been put on hold, but the tax increase will remain, to shore up the city’s budget because the full effect of COVID-19 on tourism is unknown. And with NOAA predicting a busy hurricane season, the city wants to make sure it has the ability to handle whatever natural disaster might come its way. 

The increase means a resident homeowner with a $300,000 house will see their tax bill go up by about $96, and non-resident homeowner with a house of the same valuation will see a $108 increase, according to city budget documents. 

The new rate of 45 mils will still be one of the lowest rates in the county. Only Surfside Beach has a lower rate at 43 mils. Briarcliffe Acres is also at 45 mils. Horry County, Myrtle Beach, Aynor, Loris, Conway and Atlantic Beach all have higher tax rates.

The city already bought 96 acres of land for the park expansion and needs to pay back a $4.5 million loan that funded the purchase. But the full 7.9 mil increase was originally proposed as a way to give the city enough revenue to start building amenities in the park as well. And those amenities have been put on hold for now.

“At this time, we do not have any plans to start construction or anything over at the sports complex,” Hatley said.

Fiscal Year 2020’s local hospitality fee budget was more than $6.4 million, but FY21’s budgeted amount is almost $13.4 million, after the city voted last year to pass an ordinance allowing the city to keep the entire 3 percent hospitality fee collected within the city instead of giving half of it to the county. The county is challenging the ordinance in court, and the South Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.

But Hatley said she doesn’t expect the city to take in the entire amount of revenue listed in the budget document.

“That was only an estimate. We don’t know what the future holds,” Hatley said. “But in talking to our businesses, this week we have heard from businesses that they are 40, 45 percent down. If they are 40 and 45 percent down, then that means hospitality and it means accommodations monies are gonna be a lot less.”

The city has been projecting a decrease in tourism for months, and is spending $260,000 to help fund the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce’s marketing plan to bring people back to the beach, citing the city’s reliance on tourism as the main driver of its economy. 

0
0
0
0
0

(1) comment

KICKTHEMALLOUT

Thank God I don't live in North Myrtle Beach. And now I NEVER will. They have a New Democrat mayor (or RINO) it seems. Who hates America (cancelling 4th of July fireworks to demoralize us), raising taxes, spreading covid panic and tyranny, and cancelling much needed projects that improves the city. That sounds like a Democrat hēll hole to me.

I'll make she to campaign against her when re-election season comes about.

Before she was a nobody to me. Now she's enemy #1. Democrats and RINOS must be fought against with all our might. Enjoy your last term, tyrant!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.