As Myrtle Beach is grappling funding for expanded law enforcement, it may be able to tap into a large reserve of money that’s collected through taxes but not spent by the government.
The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is the recipient of tens of millions in tax dollars each year, both through the state accommodations tax and a 1 percent sales tax, and must use that money for tourism promotion and out-of-market advertising.
But several members of the public at a Tuesday city council meeting called for at least some of that money to be diverted back to Myrtle Beach, where it is generated, to pay for expanded law enforcement. The meeting was called after the city saw several shootings last weekend, one of which became national news when it was broadcast on Facebook live.
Mayor John Rhodes also said he was open to reclaiming about 10 percent of the collections from the 1 percent sales tax. Currently, about 80 percent goes to the chamber for outside advertising, and 20 percent is used to roll back property taxes for Myrtle Beach owner-occupiers.
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The funds would be used, Rhodes said, “for strictly law enforcement. It can not be used to buy a toothpick.”
Chamber President Brad Dean said he was open to the idea of using some of his group’s share of tax proceeds for law enforcement and pledged to help the city fund and promote whatever safety plan it crafts.
“As much as we find advertising to be a very important investment, I can message safety a lot easier than I can message mayhem,” he told city council Tuesday.
If the idea does come to fruition, Myrtle Beach could see as much as $2.7 million funnel back into its coffers — one-tenth of the total amount generated by the tax in 2016. But state law would have to be changed to allow the new use for the tax money.
“I feel very confident that our delegation would speak, hopefully, favorably towards that,” Rhodes said.
The Sun News could not reach by phone State Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Horry County, whose district covers Myrtle Beach.
But State Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, said he’s more in favor of using A-tax money — a smaller pot of revenue that is far less than that from the 1 percent sales tax. In 2016, $9.4 million in state A-taxes were generated in Myrtle Beach, as opposed to $27.2 million from the one percent sales tax.
A-tax money has been diverted to law enforcement before, however. Thirty percent of the A-tax funds are given to the chamber every year for advertising. In 2014, after another high-profile string of shootings over Memorial Day weekend, a proviso was attached to state law allowing 30 percent of the chamber’s share to be used for extra law enforcement on that holiday weekend — something Clemmons suggested extending to fund law enforcement for a longer period, as opposed to using the sales tax money.
“It’s my opinion that the proviso will be certainly legislatively the easiest lift on being able to get an amendment to … fund what will become the Myrtle Beach plan for law enforcement,” he said.
But Myrtle Beach Spokesman Mark Kruea said that using the sales tax funds would make more sense.
“We’d rather have a dedicated source of funding [as opposed to a proviso],” he said.