MYRTLE BEACH — The city of Myrtle Beach collected $6.5 million during the most recent quarter from a local-option, 1 percent sales tax that goes toward tourism promotion, tax relief for city property owners and tourism-related capital improvement projects.
That amount represents a 20 percent increase over tax collections for the spring quarter a year earlier and follows a 31 percent year-over-year increase in collections for the winter quarter.
For the entire fiscal year -- which runs from July 1 to June 30 -- the city collected nearly $23.6 million from the sales tax, a 14.8 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.
The higher collections reflect a boost in business activity and retail sales within the city.
Although the $6.5 million amount is for the April through June reporting period, it reflects actual collections made during the months of March, April and May. The sales tax collections lag one month behind the reporting period.
The 20 percent increase in collections includes revenue from the Easter holiday and the month of May, when a pair of motorcycle-related rallies traditionally are held along the Grand Strand.
“We had a very strong spring and that’s where we have room for growth,” said city spokesman Mark Kruea, adding that there is limited opportunity for increasing numbers during the busy summer season. “The spring and fall seasons here are spectacular, and I think more people are starting to realize that.”
That matches Buz Plyler’s experience at the Gay Dolphin Gift Cove gift shop on Ocean Boulevard. Plyler, whose family has owned the shop for 67 years, said business was up 30 percent through May.
“Myrtle Beach appears to be the strongest resort in the nation right now,” Plyler said, crediting the city’s use of the 1 percent sales tax to promote tourism and the fact that this area is an “economy resort” that is affordable for families. Plyler said he expects to finish the year with an overall increase in business barring any major storm this hurricane season.
“It appears we are matching our strong numbers from last year and are perhaps on an upsurge,” he said.
Although the sales tax is collected in Myrtle Beach, the out-of-market advertising also attracts visitors to other beach communities along the Grand Strand, according to tourism experts.
Brad Dean, president and chief executive of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, told City Council members this week that the local-option sales tax “is showing huge dividends not only to Myrtle Beach, but the whole Grand Strand.”
The chamber of commerce receives 80 percent of the tax revenues to help pay for out-of-market tourism promotions. The remaining 20 percent of tax revenues goes toward lowering tax bills for the owners of property within the city limits.
Kruea said the increase in tax collections shows the city has weathered threatened boycotts from bikers who were unhappy with the city’s efforts to quell the spring rallies.
“With the rallies, a segment of business owners did very well, but the rest were shut out,” he said. “Without the bike rallies, business is spread out across the board.”
Of the amount collected in the most recent quarter, $5.2 million will go to the chamber of commerce for its marketing programs. The chamber received nearly $18.9 million for the fiscal year, an 8 percent increase over the previous year.
Myrtle Beach posted its third consecutive record-breaking year for tourism tax collections. The city has collected nearly $58.4 million since the tax was enacted in August 2009.
The local-option tax is added to the sales tax on purchases made in Myrtle Beach. The tax has a lifespan of 10 years, although some council members have said they want to remove the legislated “sundown provision” so the tax can continue to be collected beyond that time period.
Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281.