A property tax hike to fund new police officer positions in Myrtle Beach was initially approved by city council Tuesday, but elected officials urged staff to make adjustments before it is officially enacted.
The proposed budget would raise property taxes by 1.4 mills: the raise translates to a $14 increase from the year before for a primary residence appraised at $250,000 in value.
Myrtle Beach’s budget must be approved a second time before it goes into effect. Council members Mary Jeffcoat, Phil Render, Mike Chestnut, Randal Wallace and Mayor John Rhodes voted in favor of the funding package Tuesday, while Councilman Mike Lowder was absent and Councilman Wayne Gray voted against it.
“Frankly, I think we can go through a few items again,” said Gray, whose term will expire in January.
He suggested passing the cost of solid waste fee increases on to users and diverting other money, like roughly $200,000 earmarked for sidewalk improvements.
For a house appraised at $250,000, a primary resident would pay $14 more than last year, and a second home owner would pay $21 more, based on the budget proposal.
In March, City Manager John Pedersen presented a budget that included some increases in water and sewer fees, but not a property tax raise. But after a string of shootings in April led several officials to call for more visible policing downtown and elsewhere, he added a program in excess of $1 million to beef up law enforcement.
City staff were able to cover all but $471,000 of that program by moving around other funding, so Pedersen proposed covering the shortfall, which would roughly pay for five new police officer positions, with the property tax hike.
But if the city does raise taxes, it would have an even bigger impact on second-home owners.
Primary residents who own their homes in Myrtle Beach are taxed at a lower rate. They also receive a property tax credit from a one percent sales tax that mostly funds out-of-market advertising by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. The rest of the revenue from that tax is used to “roll back” taxes for owner-occupiers, a benefit that would amount to $640 for a $250,000 home under the budget passed Tuesday.
A primary home owner with a property at that amount would thus pay a total of $149 in property taxes.
Home owners who do not primarily live in their Myrtle Beach residences, by contrast, would pay a total of $1,184 for a $250,000 home in fiscal year 2017. That would be a $21 increase from the year before, if the tax raise is enacted.
The city’s deadline to finalize its budget is July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.