MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Myrtle Beach city council passed its proposed budget for the next fiscal year that will add more police officers, fire department staff, and improve infrastructure.
The spending plan totals $292 million and does not call for a property tax increase. The budget does include a proposed combined water & sewer rate of 4.5% and a combined water & sewer connection fee increase of 67.3%. Most households will pay a $16.50 annual increase from the current annual rate for stormwater fees.
The spending allows for 10 new police officers. Six would be patrol and four would be special operations. It also would raise salaries and add staff at the fire department.
“We got a couple new ambulances in the budget, police vehicles,” city manager Jonathan “Fox” Simons said. “We (were) really impacted by COVID-19, last year, the current budget where we had to defer a lot of capital maintenance like police cars and extend the life of ambulances, that we were able to address in this budget. So it does a lot of that.”
Mayor Brenda Bethune emphasized at a recent meeting how important public safety is to council.
“Our council has been very resolute in the support we give our public safety,” Mayor Bethune said. “Ten new officers and really getting our fire department salaries where they needed to be. And that was through a study we did to make sure we were comparable to other municipalities and really paying our people the best we possibly can.”
The budget also allocates millions toward the city’s capital improvement plan. That includes some major projects in the Arts and Innovation District, along Ocean Boulevard and projects involving stormwater.
The city expects business license and tourism driven tax and fee revenues to compare to pre-pandemic levels.
Here’s how the budget could effect your wallet.
The city will raise fees on a few services after a consultant said rates are below other nearby municipalities. Things that have increased are the stormwater fee along with charges for water and sewer. Cemetery services could also rise to get closer to market value.
“A lot of our fees were below market rates and that’s important we look at those things and continue to evaluate them,” Mayor Bethune said. “Our financial staff has done an incredible job of taking those things into account. But also making sure we protect our residents and that’s what we’ve done.”
Many services wouldn’t see an increase under the budgets. Fees for solid waste, sports tourism and the convention center of all examples of ones that have not increased.
Also during Tuesday’s city council meeting, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Karen Riordan presented a quarterly update.
She noted the Chamber’s recent rebranding efforts and said one goal is to increase visitation during the fall period.
She said accommodation occupancy and rates have been on the rise.
“This tells us we have great demand right now,” Riordan said. “Our supply is finite in terms of how many accommodations we have in city limits. And so what that’s doing is it’s actually pushing up the rate and the occupancy of our hotel partners. So that’s a very, very good sign and we expect going into CCMF weekend and toward Fourth of July this will continue a very strong trend for us.”