NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The North Myrtle Beach City Council passed a resolution for a public referendum regarding a tourism development fee, or TDF.
North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley said the local business community went to council two years ago asking to implement the increased tax. It did not pass with a super majority vote of five or more council members.
So, moving forward, council has decided to leave it up to the voters and go with a public referendum.
"It is not up to me to influence their vote one way or another. It is my job to educate the community on where the money is going and what the bill could do," Hatley said.
The tourism development fee could generate around $8.5 million. Hatley said in the first year, if the bill passes, 100 percent of that money will go strictly toward out-of-area marketing of North Myrtle Beach. The bill is capped at eight years and after the first year it will change.
"It would be a split of 80 percent of the $8.5 million would go for out-of-area marketing and 20 percent would come back to the city to go toward needed capital projects," Hatley said.
Residents' property taxes would also be rolled back at least 20 percent. According to Hatley, 20 percent of the $8.5 million would give residents approximately $51 back on their taxes on a $250,000 home, for example.
One of the long-time business owners of International Café along Main Street said he has heard of the tourism development fee in Myrtle Beach and is on board for it to come to North Myrtle Beach.
"I couldn't see how it would hurt," Kevin Phillips said. "I know I've seen ads and magazines in other states, so it's a good way to attract people and plant the seed to have them take a vacation in Myrtle Beach or here in North Myrtle."
Hatley noted that her city's proposed TDF would be different than what is in Myrtle Beach.
"They generate a considerably large amount of money off their 1 cent sales tax - I think approximately $22 million - where we only generate $8.5 million," Hatley said.
The North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce would serve as the destination marketing organization, which means it must administer the money and is not allowed to spend 80 percent of the tax on anything other than out-of-area marketing.
Dawn Williams is the owner of Dirty Dawg Self-Serve Pet Wash on Main Street. She wants to see even more people around her business and is pleased the voters have a voice to decide on the bill.
"I think it's important we let the community speak on this for sure," Williams said. "It's going to impact not just the business, but impact the housing area and development of homes and drive up the value of our homes and certainly bring in more foot traffic."
All registered North Myrtle Beach voters are encouraged to participate in the public referendum, which is set for March 6.