The county expects to collect more than $4.2 million in accommodation taxes in the upcoming fiscal year, prompting government agencies and tourism-related groups to start lining up this week for a piece of that financial pie.
At least $1.1 million will go to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce in the fiscal year 2018 budget that begins July 1. That’s the percentage set aside by law for the county to spend on tourism advertising and promotion.
Another five percent will go to the county’s general fund and 65 percent towards tourism-related expenditures that requires approval by the Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee.
It’s that committee that met Wednesday to hear pitches for tourism funding for agencies, including the Horry County Police and Fire Rescue that depend on the money to pay for overtime during the upcoming bike festivals.
Police Chief Joseph Hill asked for $377,245 to pay for overtime for the bike festivals as well as during other peak holidays and special events.
“We’re anticipating a bigger crowd this year both for the bike weeks and for the beaches because the economy is getting better,” Hill said.
This will be the first year of bike festivals for the new police chief who took over the department last year, although Hill has actually attended the event as a biker in previous years.
“I’ve always wondered how in the world does law enforcement in the community deal with all the influx of traffic?” Hill said. “So, I’m about to find out.”
Deputy Chief Scott Thompson with Horry County Fire Rescue is asking for $94,752, that’s less than they asked for last year, when he said they “over-prepared.”
Even with last year’s fire in Atlantic Beach during the Bike Fest, and the tropical storm that drenched that event reducing attendance, Thompson insisted that their budget could be safely trimmed.
Horry County Beach Patrol requested $1,252,528 to assist with their coverage of nearly six miles of beach on the south end, and more than three miles of beach on the north end of the Grand Strand.
The money would be used to buy another jet ski, kayak, beach vehicle, rescue sled and to help cover the bike festivals.
Capt. Jason Freer said their calls increased 120 percent during the 18 days of biker events last year.
Money from accommodation taxes also are utilized by the beach patrol to enforce parking rules, and committee member Ryan Swaim questioned whether this was the best use of the money in Garden City.
He said the same tourists getting ticketed are the ones who are also paying the accommodation taxes.
“That’s a little bit of a sore subject for us down there,” Swaim said. “It rubs us the wrong way a little bit to have accommodation tax funds being used to fund parking enforcement.”
Swaim noted that the Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee has no role in making policy, but said he wanted his opposition to the spending noted for the record.
Some of the other groups that made requests this week include:
• South Strand Camping Association, $21,000, to maintain the median way.
• Garden City Beach Community Association asked $16,000 for lights.
• Arcadian-Shore Drive Community Association requested $7,575.
• Horry County government officials requested $34,0444 for landscaping along Highway 501 and $34,044 for landscape maintenance in Garden City.
• TheArtsGrandStrand.org asked for $4,800 for it’s online event guide.
• Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA asked for $14,500.
• American Heart Association beach ride requested $2,500.
• Horry County officials asked for $1.1 million in beach cleanup and roadside litter programs.
• Grand Strand Juniors requested $5,000.
• Speedway Group for the Horry County Fair asked for $100,000.