Unresolved hospitality tax dispute follows Horry County Council into 2020

Grand Strand

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County Council is getting back to work in the new decade.

Chair Johnny Gardner says he’s energized to lead county council for his second year.

“I think we made a lot of headway in a short period of time,” he said.

In his “state of the county address” at Tuesday’s council meeting, he reflected on the county’s public safety upgrades in 2019.

“We’ve got some salaries increased,” he said. “We’ve increased some positions. We’ve added to the staff, fire rescue, police department and 911.”

One main issue following council into 2020 is the ongoing legal battle with cities and towns over control of hospitality tax revenue. In our new digital segment “Capitol Watch with Bob Juback,” Rep. Tom Rice, R-South Carolina, says the tourist tax dispute hurts as Gov. Henry McMaster and the state’s Congressional delegation push for Interstate 73’s construction.

Rep. Rice once served as council chair before he was elected to Congress.

“At the very time when we got all these people pulling for us in the same direction, then the local governments start fighting among themselves and threaten the local match, which really is terribly unfortunate,” said Rep. Rice.

Gardner says while nothing changed over the holidays, he’s hopeful an agreement can be reached.

“I would love to have that lawsuit settled because that would give us a clearer picture of what money is available for the budget,” said Gardner. “We could use that money to get services for our residents.”

Gardner also says in addition to more public safety upgrades, another 2020 goal is to improve the county’s flood resiliency.

Council also received an update in private Tuesday night about an FBI investigation into more than $250,000 of equipment stolen from the county’s IT department. A police report says $267,920 worth of Cisco-brand switches were taken. Switches are used to connect Ethernet cables between computers, printers and other electronics. No suspects have been identified yet.

Gardner didn’t explain what was discussed, but says the investigation is still ongoing.

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