Horry County Council offers cities, towns deal to split hospitality tax money

Grand Strand

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County Council made its offer to the county’s cities and towns for how to split hospitality tax money in what council calls “a good faith deal.”

As Horry County cities and towns take control of hospitality tax revenue generated in their borders, county council is trying to make a deal.

“What we have here in this resolution is the first time anybody has put a plan on the table,” said Johnny Vaught, a council member representing the Forestbrook area.

Council unanimously approved that resolution Tuesday night. Under this offer, the county would still control that hospitality tax money, but change how it’s used.

$18 million per year would be dedicated to the Interstate 73 project. That’s down from the roughly $25 million council offered to pay the state Department of Transportation last year. Cities and towns would get an estimated $14,693,141 per year.

According to the county’s analysis, Myrtle Beach would receive $9,345,750, North Myrtle Beach would get $3,872,454, Conway would get $685,299, and Loris would receive $100,245. For towns, Surfside Beach would get $601,051, Aynor would receive $63,248, and Atlantic Beach would get $25,098. Those are annual estimates and are based on the fiscal year 2018 estimated revenues for the tourist taxes.

Horry County would get $9,759,427, and all of that money for the county, cities and towns is for “the escalating costs of tourism.”

“It gives us $9.8 million that we wouldn’t ordinarily have available to us to pay for public safety enhancements and it gets the highway built if, and only if, the state and federal government come up with their portion,” said Dennis DiSabato, a council member representing Myrtle Beach.

The county says this plan would allow it to borrow about $275 million over 30 years for I-73.

On Tuesday, council also rejected an offer by the cities and towns to keep negotiations with the county confidential.

“I can’t believe that a governmental body would want to go behind closed doors to discuss anything such as this,” said Gary Loftus, a council member representing Surfside Beach.

Council chair Johnny Gardner says he believes the deal is fair and gives the county, cities and towns more control over the tax money.

“We get to allocate some towards I-73, the municipalities get to use theirs, the county gets to use its, and everybody gets more,” Gardner said.

Negotiations between Gardner and the municipalities need to happen quickly. If a deal isn’t reached by April 16, council would likely break its I-73 funding agreement with the SCDOT.

Gardner also says a severance package for county administrator Chris Eldridge hasn’t been agreed to yet, but significant progress has been made before Gardner’s deadline of next week.

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