Myrtle Beach residents could see higher utility fees later this year if the City Council approves its budget as proposed by the city manager and staff Wednesday at the city’s annual budget retreat.
The $157.8 million budget proposal would not increase the property tax rate, which remains at 66.1 mills. Last year’s total budget was $152.8 million.
Myrtle Beach Budget Director Michael Shelton on Wednesday proposed the city increase its storm water rate by 75 cents a month. Residents would also see a 3.7 to 4 percent increase in their sewer and water bills, based on a 7.5 percent increase in the sewer rate.
The increase in the sewer rate is due to an anticipated increase in the wholesale rates to the city. Wholesale sewer rates are expected to increase 11 cents next year, Shelton said.
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Shelton said the monthly 75 cent stormwater increase would accommodate a loan that accelerates a project on 4th Avenue North that is intended to improve stormwater quality and re-route stormwater flows from beach pipes to a large diameter ocean outfall system.
The city also would see more revenue if the council approves changing the way emergency medical services collects its fees. The proposed budget would increase the charges incurred by people using the city’s fire and EMS services, bringing them in line with Horry County’s rates.
Currently, a city resident would pay $350 for basic life support or $450 to $550 for advanced life support transport. Horry County charges residents $450 for basic life support and $700 to $800 for advance life support transport.
Fire Chief Alvin Payne said his department also hopes to change collection agencies, which could potentially increase their revenue as well. He said the collection agency the department currently uses is not very aggressive and bid for a new agency is out.
“Right now we only collect about 50 percent of our [fees],” he said. “So hopefully we’ll see some more money coming in with [the use of a new agency].”
Shelton spent time reminding council that any new capital improvement projects must be operated and maintained.
“When we think about building capital projects, we’ve got to also think about operating them,” he said. “Be aware not only of the sexy project and what it brings to the community but what it’s going to cost to operate it.”
City staff will go over current and proposed capital projects during Thursday’s meeting.
Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea said a word that best describes the proposed budget is “lean.”
There is no pay increase for city employees. In the current fiscal year employees received an across-the-board 3 percent raise. City employees received a merit raise of up to 3 percent last fiscal year.
Budget talks will continue Thursday and Friday morning at the Wampee Conference Center, picking up with capital improvement projects as well as discussing reviewing healthcare and funding of outside agencies.