How Horry Co. is spending $2.5 million in ATAX dollars

How Horry Co. is spending $2.5 million in ATAX dollars

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - More than $2.5 million was divided up by the Horry County Accommodations Tax (ATAX) Committee.

Last Wednesday, the committee passed the second reading for how funds should be disbursed. It makes the recommendations by reviewing the applications thoroughly with organizations or groups that have applied for money.

According to county records, available ATAX funds for the 2016-2017 fiscal year is an estimated $2,585,144.00. Committee chairman Bob Barenburg, however, said there was a lot more money requested than available.

"We had about $4,528,579.79 in requests, but we only have a little over $2.5 million," said Barenburg.

The ATAX funds help promote tourism and events that draw tourists to the unincorporated areas of Horry County.

"The unincorporated areas fall under Horry County, they don't fall under Myrtle Beach or North Myrtle ATAX," said Barenburg.

ATAX money is collected each time a person pays to stay in a hotel in the county. The majority of the funds come back to the Grand Strand, with the money distributed to drive more out-of-market tourism to generate additional tax funds.

About 27 applications were submitted for the county funding. Some of those agencies included Coast Futbol Alliance, the American Heart Association's Beach Ride event and the 2016 Waccamaw Indian Tribe Pauwau.

The committee has the task of deciding how that money should be spent to continue to promote tourism, and Barenburg said the agencies must meet certain criteria to qualify for the funds.

"You have to fund out-of-market advertising with the idea of bringing more tourism to Horry County," he said. "Second, it has to deal with a cultural event or tourism-related facilities such as fire, police, and ambulance."

According to the report, a large portion of the budget is allocated to public safety, beach renourishment and litter cleanup.

An application submitted by Horry County Beach Patrol showed the agency requested over $1 million, but received about $960,000. The funding is expected to help cover officer salaries, a new trailer for the department's jet ski and rescue products.

Horry County Fire Rescue set aside nearly $63,000 for the agency to help cover overtime and salaries during the major biker events.

Other agencies that will host events also applied. The Little River Crab Festival got a recommended $11,000 for the event, while the Palmetto Studios Arts Alliance received a recommended $24,000 for its X-Con World event.

"The way the law is written, it is decided that cultural events are very important to the local community and those are eligible ... for those funds," said Barenburg.

None of the agencies got the money they requested. Barenburg said there simply wasn't enough to go around.

The committee saw the need to give the Horry County Beach Renourishment Program $489,000 to help with restoring the beach in unincorporated areas, which include Acardian Shores Beach, the Campground and Long Bay Estates, and Garden City.

Barenburg said the committee also considered the end result of the agency's request, specifically what type of impact will it have on the local tourism economy.

Horry County Spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier, said all of the recommendations made by the committee must be reviewed by county council. Therefore, they could change.

Bourcier said county council is expected to discuss the ATAX funding at the budget workshop scheduled for April 28 and
April 29.

For a complete list of the various agencies' funding requests, see the below document:

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