City leaders make public safety No. 1 priority in 2019 budget

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The city of Myrtle Beach is working to make the area safer.

During day one of a two-day budget retreat, city leaders said a large portion of the 2019 budget could go to public safety, possibly close to a quarter of it.

"We tried to build the budget around their priorities," said city manager John Pedersen. "We had a budget retreat in January and we asked council to prioritize the things to focus on this year and public safety came out as the No. 1 thing."

The city's budget is $197 million. Of that, $33 million is expected to go to police, a $4 million increase from last year.

"We're definitely pleased with that. We're excited about the programs we're doing right now and the focus on the budget because it's helpful to the public safety efforts we are focusing on," said Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock. "One group I really have to thank is the support that we've gotten, not only from the finance department, but also city council. We have been very fortunate to evaluate the pay study, which was huge in order to attract more people to our department."

In order to make these changes to public safety, Pedersen says tax increases are necessary.

"There's just no way of getting around that. There's additional costs there. We were able to absorb the rest of it but three mills was what we needed to add in order to make this budget balanced," he said.

Three mills is about a 3.9 percent increase, but Pedersen said if someone has just one home in the city, they might not see much of an increase at all.

"The folks that own a primary residence, the TDF (tourism development fee) provides a credit that's going to cover the effect of that. So those folks will see minimal increase if any at all. But for folks that have second homes and businesses, they will roughly see a 3.9 percent increase," he said.

If this budget is approved, the three mill increase will go into effect on July 1.

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