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Explaining the tourism development fee for North Myrtle Beach

Residents in North Myrtle Beach are less than a month away from deciding whether or not they will implement a tourism development fee, a 1-percent sales tax that goes toward out-of-state marketing.

But what exactly is the TDF?

The tourism development fee is a 1-cent sales tax on anything but unprepared food. The money from the tax is required to go to a nonprofit organization that is experienced in out-of-area marketing.

For North Myrtle Beach, the money would most likely go to the Chamber of Commerce like it does in Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley said during a neighborhood meeting at Tidewater.

"It's not a tax where the entire amount goes back to the city that benefits everyone in the community where we can get all kinds of infrastructure and that kind of thing," Hatley said. "One-hundred percent of it during the first year goes directly to whatever organization we choose for it to go to."

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After the first year, residents will have an opportunity to receive property tax rebates. The percentage that residents get back is up to the city.

By law, 80 percent of the tax must go to out-of-state marketing. That means that 20 percent can be used for tax rebates, but at least 4 percent must be used for tax rebates. The rest of the money can go back to the city.

In North Myrtle Beach, if the tax is passed the city plans to give 80 percent of the tax going to the chamber, 16 percent will go to the city and 4 percent used for tax rebates.

This means residents would get back roughly $71 in tax rebates, based on a home worth $350,000. The remaining money would be used for new infrastructure including parking, City Manager Mike Mahaney said.

"At the end of the day the decision you have to make is based on your own quality of life and what you do," Mahaney said. "Spending another $8.5 million to bring an additional tourists here, how does it affect your quality of life?"

The TDF or a capital sales tax?

For about two years city officials have tried to pass a capital sales tax, which would be the same thing as the TDF except all the money would go toward improving infrastructure.

"What we would prefer, we've worked very hard trying to get a bill through Columbia that would allow 1-percent per capita," Mahaney said. "Where you get a similar tax and you pay on happy hour, amusements, whatever, but what we would do is we would use that to solve our infrastructure problems. We would identify pieces of property all up and down our nine miles that are available but we don't have a funding source."

Hatley said the tax would last roughly eight years, which would be enough to pay off the costs of improving infrastructure including parking, ocean outfalls and repaving roads.

However, Mahaney said they are running into problems because the tax is opposed by the statewide chamber of commerce and some members of the South Carolina Association of Counties.

"I'm not optimistic," Mahaney said. "If it passes, I think it's probably a four-year process."

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North Myrtle Beach residents will vote on the TDF on March 6. Absentee ballots are available for those who will not be able to vote in person.

"We want your voice to be heard," Hatley said. "If you want the TDF, then you go and you vote for it. If you do not want the TDF you go and you vote against it. if you don't have time and it's not important, then you sure can't fuss over that when it's all over with. So, we do hope that you will all get out and vote on March the 6th."