NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The city of North Myrtle Beach will have the first reading of the proposed budget Monday for fiscal year 2016-2017. The budget has increased almost $14 million compared to last year for major road, storm water and utility improvement projects.
The entire budget is $93,816,202 according to the North Myrtle Beach budget agenda. The major highlights of the budget include tax increases, city improvement projects and the Cherry Grove canal dredging.
The city is proposing a property tax increase of two mills. An increase of two mills in property tax equals an annual fee of $8 for each $100,000 of residential home value, according to North Myrtle Beach. The tax will generate an extra $750,000 annually to hire four additional public safety employees and road maintenance.
North Myrtle Beach has a property tax rate of 39.3 mills now. If the two mills are added, North Myrtle Beach will still have lower property tax rates than Surfside Beach, Myrtle Beach, Conway and other surrounding cities and towns. However, the increase will be cut when the North Myrtle Beach Sports Complex bond is paid off in October 2019. Property tax was increased by 6.2 mills to help the complex.
Another increase is the suggested $2 increase in storm water management fees. Currently, the fee is $6 for a single family home, $4 for a condo. If the proposal passes, those fees will be increased to $8 and $5.50, respectively. The monthly fee will be applied to projects like the ongoing ocean outfall improvements. Construction is slow for the projects because since the first few were finished at $11 million, state prices and permits increased the cost of each outfall by several million. The city has about six more outfalls scheduled, the next being at 18th Ave. North. Construction is supposed to start in fiscal year 2019. The fee will help start the other 6 projects as well.
Road widening at Ocean Boulevard in Crescent Beach will begin in October if the budget passes. The city has been waiting on SCDOT to finish state roadwork before beginning the project. Included in this is placing overhead utility lines along 11th Ave. South underground. This project is expensive, costing about $1 million a mile to place underground, but city leaders hope fewer utility poles will result in better driver safety and improve storm costs from downed power lines. North Myrtle Beach Public Information Officer Pat Dowling says both projects are welcomed by residents.
"When you have a clean roadway and clean intersections where sign signalization is obvious and not confusing, there are a whole lot less traffic accidents. So less things for police to deal with, less things for the rest of us to deal with," Dowling said.
The Cherry Grove dredging project has been a long time coming. Canals from 42nd to 63rd Avenues North have not been maintained and are slowly turning into marsh as a result. At low tide, the waters cannot be used by boats because the area turns to mud flats. Dowling says residents have alerted the city of the problem for years, but the issue was coming up with the funds to fix it.
Part of the Monday budget proposal includes a bond issue for the Cherry Grove dredging project. The canals have never been dredged and ultimately the burden falls on those who live there. The plan is for a special assessment for each homeowner on their Horry County tax notice. If you live along one of these canals, there will be a line item for dredging. The rough estimation is a maximum $2,400 a year for ten years.
City leaders say some homeowners are unhappy with the cost. However, if nothing is done, the canals will return to marsh and boaters will never be able to enjoy the waters again. This has already happened at Z Canal, along 63rd Ave. North.
"It's just inconvenient for them. It's been a tough project to put together because the bulk of the...again the burden for paying for the project is on those who live on the canals that're going to be dredged, those who own the property. Some are happy with that, some are not, but the reality is there's really no other way to pay for it," Dowling said.
Some oyster beds are expected to be destroyed, but the city will recreate wildlife when the project is finished. The dredge will suck 3 1/2 feet of muck through a large pipe and into a basin. The project will eventually be followed by a maintenance dredge. This is scheduled to begin in October and be finished by March 2017.