MB City Council weighs tourism development fee renewal after 10 years

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - After going into effect nearly 10 years ago, the Myrtle Beach Tourism Development Fee is up for renewal by the city council, but some people think it should be voted on by city residents.

The issue comes just days after the city of North Myrtle Beach overwhelming voted against a TDF of its own. Myrtle Beach city leaders, however, said their TDF proposal is much different.

The tourism development fee is a 1 percent retail sales tax on everything a person buys in the city. From restaurant meals and hotel rooms to clothes, both tourists and residents pay this fee year-round.

That funding is primarily used for out-of-market advertising. In fact, 80 percent is required by law for that purpose. The remaining 20 percent can go toward property tax credits and tourism-related capital projects.

Currently, homeowners who live full-time in the city of Myrtle Beach receive an 82 percent credit on their property taxes because of the TDF.

For example, if a person lives in Myrtle Beach and has a house valued at $199,000, they receive a credit of just over $500.

According to information from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, the TDF brings in roughly $30 million each year in total. Of that, $6 million goes toward the property tax credits and tourism-related projects.

"Without the additional investments and marketing, we would not be able to grow air service, we would not be able to attract as many new visitors and that would mean our growth would be stopping," said MBACC president and CEO Brad Dean. "But thankfully, with additional promotions, the Grand Strand is a growing destination."

Those projects have included the oceanfront boardwalk and the Myrtle Beach Sports Center.

Still, people like Tom Stickler think Myrtle Beach residents should get the vote.

"The city council should give the citizens an opportunity to vote on it like the city of North Myrtle Beach did, by referendum, rather than imposing it on them by a vote of city council," said Stickler.

Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea said whether a person is a tourist or a Grand Strand resident, the TDF impact goes far beyond the city limits.

"I know some people outside the city may say, 'I have to pay the fee, but what benefit do I get?' You get the benefit of the local economy growing," Kruea said. "We don't just advertise for Myrtle Beach; we advertise for the entire Grand Strand. Plus, we get new attractions, new restaurants, new beach amenities that you get to enjoy here as well. You don't have to be a city resident to benefit from all those tourist-related attractions."

If the TDF is renewed by the city council, it will not have to be considered again for another 10 years. It is expected to be discussed by the council later this spring.

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