County officials are preparing to spend $453 million during the new budget year beginning July 1 that includes raises for employees, more money for roads and police officers, no property tax increases and a bump in revenue collected by the county.
“We’ve done well staying within the budget, not raising taxes, and using growth to pay for some this stuff,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman of the Horry County Council.
While nine new police officers are included in the budget, the county will share three of those hires with the school district to act as school resource officers. In addition, four new sheriff deputies will be hired to work at the detention center.
The council has been working on the budget since March, with the final vote scheduled for Tuesday.
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At least two new librarians will be added to the staff in Carolina Forest, but there will be no money for Myrtle Beach library facilities.
Lazarus says the council is holding fast to its decision to strike $200,000 in funding for the new library and museum that Myrtle Beach officials are planning to build on the superblock.
A caveat was also placed on $35,000 requested by the Chapin Library that is moving to the superblock site. If county money is used, then county residents should get free library cards, which are offered to Myrtle Beach residents, councilmen say.
The rejection of funding is the council’s way of letting Myrtle Beach know that county residents are angry at the city’s decision to charge locals for beach-front access lots, while letting city residents use car tax stickers for unlimited and unrestricted parking.
“We’re trying to let them know that we’re serious about the Myrtle Beach City Council considering Horry County residents the same as Myrtle Beach residents when it comes to the parking situation,” said Johnny Vaught, Horry County councilman.
“If we’re going to continue funding the Myrtle Beach library, then our county residents should have free library cards,” Vaught said.
Some users of the county’s parks and recreation facilities will see small increased fees that will increase revenues an additional $74,000 to bring in a total $879,237.
Lazarus said those fees will apply to leasing fields for football games or renting the gym to groups, when county personnel has to work overtime for events.
“We had to adjust because we were going backwards,” said Lazarus, noting that county facilities are still cheaper to rent than some municipalities.
Raises for county employees including police will depend on merit, ranging anywhere from one to five percent.
The county also expects to pay more than $1.2 million for regular retirement for employees, and $1.1 million toward police retirement benefits. Additionally, the county will pay an estimated $3 million in workers compensation.
The council is counting on a deal with the Horry County School Board to pay for the use of 21 patrol officers to act as school resource officers.
The school board requested three additional officers this year, which will leave the police department with six full-time officers and use of the other three when school is not in session.
The council is asking the schools to pay for the 180 days the officers are used, which amounts to $1.6 million a year.
The total revenues for the county from property taxes in the next year is estimated at $146.8 million.
“That’s mainly because of growth,” Vaught said. “Everything is just looking really good for Horry County right now.”
And while the county is carrying about $262 million in debt from major construction projects including the airport, county building jail, and major road construction from the RIDE projects, those are being paid down while the county maintains the capacity to take out even more bonds if needed, Lazarus said.
“Overall, our bond rating is almost as high as you can get,” Lazarus said. “It’s an excellent rating, and we’re in good fiscal shape.”
More importantly, Lazarus said, the budget is balanced.
Horry County tax levies
Horry-Georgetown Technical Education College
Higher Education Commission
Senior Citizen Fund
Total Levy from county