Community leaders hear requests for ATAX grants at annual meetin - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Community leaders hear requests for ATAX grants at annual meeting

The accommodations tax advisory committee met on Wednesday in Myrtle Beach. (Source: Audrey Biesk) The accommodations tax advisory committee met on Wednesday in Myrtle Beach. (Source: Audrey Biesk)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The annual accommodations tax advisory meeting took place Wednesday morning to review applications for ATAX grants for tourism, arts and cultural events, and to make recommendations to the Myrtle Beach City Council on how the money should be spent.

The application period opens each fall and the tax advisory committee listens to each presenter as they make a request for funding.

This year, nearly 40 different agencies sent in an application. Last fiscal year, council approved $884,500. For the 2018-2019 fiscal year, a request of $2,071,080 was made.

When anyone visits Myrtle Beach to spend money at a hotel, a mandatory 2 percent accommodations tax is applied, a fee that goes for all of South Carolina.

Myrtle Beach officials said right off the top, 30 percent of the money goes back to the city for public services and to promote tourism.

The state ATAX began in the 1990s to help out local jurisdictions that see a lot of tourism, so people who live in the cities aren’t burdened with keeping up with public safety costs. The funds can be used for law enforcement, traffic control, street maintenance and fire safety, as well as the continual promotion of tourism.

Michael Price, Myrtle Beach's financial analyst, said the city would ask for a larger portion of the ATAX fund for public safety, which would included the oceanfront district.

Ultimately, Price said the city asked for a little over $2.9 million for public safety, along with $627,366 for beach patrol, $828,970 for dunes management, and $1,969,829 to go toward three ladder truck companies in the fire department.

The general application for Myrtle Beach consisted of a total of $6,422,470 for additional public safety costs, $62,000 to assist with beach water quality testing and beach advisory postings, and $550,000 to help defray the cost of Myrtle Beach Convention Center marketing and promotion.

City officials said with more people visiting the area, it means extra costs. 

The meeting had one big-name presenter - a representative from the Carolina Country Music Festival.

“We have a total economic impact of over $25 million was estimated and that’s directly to our destination,” said presenter Amie Lee.

She added that CCMF is the biggest event in Myrtle Beach, so this year the festival is upping their ask from $75,000 in 2016 to $150,000.

The total marketing value is $7.2 million and the $150,000 ATAX grant would go toward strictly out-of-market advertising, according to Lee. Last year, CCMF spent $1.8 million in cash to market to those people three to six hours away from Myrtle Beach.

“If you do the math, 150 is just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall spend that the festival is going to be providing," Lee said.

There was a 20 percent increase in sales last year, and with the amount of tourists the festival brings in, Lee said the support of the accommodations tax is invaluable.

Other agencies in attendance included the Five Points Business Association, which requested $75,000. Coastal Uncorked asked for continual support of its events in the amount of $60,000.

The Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation requested $150,000 to provide free, family-friendly events throughout the year. One inaugural event, called the Myrtle Beach Jeep Jam, came forward asking for $50,000 to help with the weekend festival celebrating Jeep culture and the Grand Strand lifestyle.

The committee will make recommendations in the next two weeks and write up a letter to city council.

At that point, council will invite each agency to present again during a council workshop and hopefully be awarded funding in the beginning of 2018.

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