Myrtle Beach holds meeting to decide how to spend ATAX dollars

Myrtle Beach holds meeting to decide how to spend ATAX dollars

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach City Council members approved more than $5 million of the city's accommodations tax money to go to various agencies that support tourism in the city at a meeting on Tuesday.

The ATAX is a 2 percent state tax on accommodations. The money is intended to be used for promoting tourism for cultural and arts activities in the community.

City officials said the ATAX grant process starts in the fall for this year's budget. The funding approved Tuesday will be disbursed from 2015-2016 fiscal year budget.

There is over $9 million in ATAX funds for the city of Myrtle Beach. According to city spokesperson Mark Kruea, some of the money must be used for promotion purposes.

"State law specifies a good piece of that comes off the top for tourism promotion," explained Kruea.

Tourism-generating agencies, along with arts organizations, are able to apply for the funding.

Council approved to give the Carolina Country Music Festival a total of $75,000. Other events like Coastal Uncorked received $50,000 in grant money.

The Beach Ball Classic also received $50,000, while the Native Son Salt Games received $10,000 to help cover expenses for their event.

More than 30 agencies submitted applications for funding, but not everyone was approved during Tuesday's meeting.

"They withheld funding for the Oceanfront Merchant's Association. They are going to put a little committee together to talk with the Oceanfront Merchants Association, talk to the downtown redevelopment folks, and just get a better feel for what OMA is doing and how it is programming the activities for downtown," stated Kruea.

Other expenses through the city will be cover with ATAX money. They include:

The 4th Avenue Outfall Project

Beach Re-nourishment Project 

Beach Monitoring 

Convention Center Marketing

Dunes Management

Waterfront Patrol

Beach Patrol  

Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue Ladder Trucks

Tuesday, city council also heard from different agencies and non-profit organizations that have requested grant money.

Kruea said the outside agency funding requests are for the 2016-17 fiscal year. More than 30 agencies applied for a total of $843,610. The city, however, only has $157,145 in the budget to provide.

The grant money is set aside for those organizations that offer services to help residents.

Representatives from organizations like the Horry County Disabilities and Special Needs, Grand Strand Cultural Arts Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club of the Grand Strand stood before council to explain how they plan to use the money if it is awarded to them.

Organizations like the Rape Crisis Center said they are looking to take more preventative measures against sexual assault to help save money for the city and residents. To do that, they are looking to add new projects to the services they provide.

"Some of the initiatives that we've been working is to combat homelessness. The cycle of abuse we've been working with other partner agencies in the community to get people off the streets, so that they don't keep being re-victimized, and in the same situations over and over again," explained Ashley Crews, services coordinator for the Rape Crisis Center.

City council said they are interested in making sure some of the youth programs that are in the city partner with each other to provide better services for the community.

Also, council heard that many of the activities involving the youth were limited because of transportation issues.

"We had several agencies that serve young people that mentioned transportation needs. Maybe there is one way the city can provide transportation that would serve multiple agencies and groups," said Kruea.

Kruea added the budget will include a dollar amount for outside agency grants and then, immediately after the budget workshop, council will motion granting specific amounts of money to different outside agencies.

Yashica Swinton, president of the YIAM, a mentoring arts program for at-risk teens, stood before council Tuesday morning for the first time to ask for funding.

"It would mean a great deal to have the city support us so that we could provide services to at–risk teens, free of cost, to provide mentors as well as art-based activities to the students to help them have a positive outlet," explained Swinton.

Council decided they want to look at more options to make sure the agencies that need assistance can have some type of adequate funding.

"We heard a great many worthy causes today and certainly there were more requests than we have money available," said Kruea.

City council plan to discuss the outside agency grant request during the budget workshop scheduled for April 13 through April 15.

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