Myrtle Beach’s proposed $192 million budget includes possible tax hike

Myrtle Beach’s proposed $192 million budget includes possible tax hike

PINOPOLIS, SC (WMBF) – Myrtle Beach's proposed $192 million budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year includes a possible tax increase and higher sewage and water fees.

The Myrtle Beach City Council members and city employees have been crunching numbers at their annual budget retreat in Pinopolis.

As it stands, the proposed budget is 9 percent higher than the current fiscal year.

The city is looking at adding 11 new positions and giving city employees a pay raise of 4.25 percent in July 2017.

The budget proposal includes a millage increase to add $1 million in revenue.

The proposed three-mill increase would cost homeowners about $24 a year on a $200,000 home.

Homeowners will still be eligible for an 80 percent tax credit through the hospitality development fee if they live there full-time.

Sewage and water fees could also go up with the proposed budget between 3 and 5.6 percent, depending on water usage. That would amount to an extra 75 cents for the average customer.

City council will also look at some other possible revenue sources that aren't part of the proposed budget yet, which could include increases to fees for renting out parks, recreation facilities, sports facilities or the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Hospitality fees fund $3.4 million of the proposed budget, but city staff said that's not a sustainable funding level because that can change with the economy.

Along with budget details, city council members also heard presentations on city initiatives Thursday morning.

City Manager John Pedersen announced a new program for repeat offenders that are homeless. If a homeless person is frequently charged with public drunkenness, trespassing, sleeping in a park, etc., he or she will have the option to complete a New Directions program instead of going to jail.

The Downtown Redevelopment Corporation presented a proposal to council to rebrand downtown. Pedersen said "downtown" has a bad connotation in Myrtle Beach now.

DRC is also proposing a three-lane road for Ocean Boulevard near the boardwalk.

Also on the boardwalk, ambassadors should soon be there working as employees under the Myrtle Beach Police Department. They will greet people and also enforce voluntary compliance in an effort to prevent police officers from needing to address minor infractions, such as sleeping on the boardwalk.

The 2016-2017 budget includes a new position at the police department for a crime analysis unit. The crime analyst started April 1 with funding from the police department until the next budget passes. She will do crime mapping and look for trends to help with enforcement.

"They can put together workable statistic information that can help us predict where crime is going to be committed," MBPD Chief Warren Gall said.

The department is also adding another tool in the next few weeks, license plate readers.

"If we have a crime we might be able to track what time it came in, what time it left, if it in fact left," Gall said.

As part of phase one of the plan, three license plate readers will be installed in major exits around the city, capturing all of the lanes and assisting with vehicle theft cases.

"Each year, especially during our major events - bike weeks, first two weeks of June, Fourth of July - we have a lot of vehicle thefts," Gall said. "Mostly during the bike weeks, we have a lot of motorcycle thefts. Hopefully, we'll be able to continue to drive those numbers down by using the LPRs."

In addition to vehicle thefts, police also often respond to heroin overdoses these days, so Gall is working with all of the police chiefs in the 15th Judicial Circuit to standardize the protocol for heroin cases.

A teen resource committee is working to keep kids away from drugs, gang activity and violence and also improve school drop-out rates. That committee is creating an app to give families one place to look for activities and find resources for teenagers. Teen Take Over nights are launching at recreation facilities and the library. The first event is Friday, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Pepper Geddings.

The budget retreat lasts Wednesday night through Friday morning. City council members will then have to vote on the proposed budget within the next couple of months.

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