NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A $30 million budget decrease is coming for the City of North Myrtle Beach, partially due to months of losses of tourism-related tax revenue.
City officials said at the start of the year, they were poised to have a strong tourism season. January saw increases in both hospitality taxes on food and amusements and accommodations taxes on hotel stays.
But when COVID-19 hit in March, everything changed.
In May, the city saw its worst month for accommodations and hospitality tax revenue, reporting a nearly 90% drop in accommodations. North Myrtle Beach also brought in $343,029 less compared to May 2019. For hospitality taxes, the city also saw a 70% drop from last year.
Records show, because of the continued months of losses, certain projects in North Myrtle Beach are now delayed and cut from the budget.
Some of those endeavors include water and sewer projects being removed from the budget, saving the city $6.5 million until at least the fiscal year 2022. The 18th Avenue North Ocean Outfall project has been postponed until next October, saving $9.5 million.
Delaying construction on the planned Emergency Operations and Data Center, to be built west of the Intracoastal Waterway, is set to save the city another $2 million. Underground utility projects in the Cherry Grove area are also being pushed back, saving $1.75 million; along with an expansion of the Park & Sports Complex, which will save $8 million.
Certain full-time and currently vacant employee positions will also remain open, saving the city $2.5 million.
Horry County officials said they also are feeling the impacts when it comes to tax revenue. April was the county’s worst month.
Despite this, the county added that tourism-related tax revenue climbed in September, beyond where it was the year before.
Hotel owners like Angela Visalli felt this impact first-hand.
“My numbers this year are lower than if I compare it to last year per month. I am lower this year than I was last year," said Visalli, who owns the La Dolce Vita Villas in North Myrtle Beach.
Visalli also said her business is mirroring these trends, with good numbers for the fall season.
“For the month of September and October, I did much better this year than I did last year," she said.
When it came to why September and October were strong months, Visalli said she thinks people liked the idea of coming to less crowded beaches and cases dip from their summer high, as well as embracing the idea of traveling with masks and social distancing.
The villas have individual air conditioners and do not have elevators, two other factors why Visalli believes she had more people coming to stay this fall.
Visalli closes down her hotel after Thanksgiving and reopens ahead of St. Patrick’s Day. Despite a rebound in the fall, she said it doesn’t do enough to make up for the losses, causing more concerns.
“I just hope the COVID goes away and we can get back to normal. But I know it’s spiking everywhere, I hear it’s spiking up in other states," she said.