State Supreme Court: Horry County, municipalities still must reach an agreement over $19M in hospitality fees

Grand Strand

A judge approved the hospitality fee settlement (WBTW)

HORRY CO, SC (WBTW) – The South Carolina Supreme Court has not approved an agreement reached between Horry County and local municipalities over the hospitality tax fee.

So that puts all parties back to a previous step, working on an agreement about what to do with $19 million.

A previous judge ruled the money should be divided among the municipalities, according to Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner, but Myrtle Beach lawyers appealed that ruling.

On Wednesday, Gardner said the state Supreme Court issued an opinion but did not approve the agreement. Horry County Government canceled its budget retreat scheduled for Friday as a result. “This will give staff time to evaluate what, if any, impacts this decision will have on our FY21 and FY22 budgets,” the county issued in a notice.

An agreement was reached in September that would have distributed past money and unspent money from the tax equitably, according to the county. But it needed court approval before becoming finalized.

In March 2019, the City of Myrtle Beach filed a lawsuit against Horry County, claiming the county had been illegally collecting “tens of millions of dollars per year” through the hospitality fee. The city filed the lawsuit on behalf of itself and also Atlantic Beach, Aynor, Conway, Loris, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach.

Previously, the municipalities voted to end the scenario in which they sent Horry County the 1.5% hospitality fee. The fee took effect on January 1, 1997, and was supposed to end on January 1, 2017.

But the municipalities and the county had not agreed on how to divide the $19 million the county is holding in a trust.

 “As a matter of course, we will not offer any further commentary on substantive matters related to pending litigation,” Gardner said.

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