Proposed Myrtle Beach budget includes $125 fee for library subscription

Myrtle Beach residents could have to pay a membership fee to use the Chapin Memorial Library if the City Council approves recommendations made Sunday night by city staff at their annual budget retreat.

City Council members did not make any decisions Sunday, and will discuss options throughout the remainder of the retreat – which ends on Tuesday afternoon – and continue to discuss when they return to Myrtle Beach. A budget ordinance must be approved by the end of June.

Budget director Michael Shelton proposed a $159.8 million operating budget that did not increase the property tax, but did include an increase in solid waste, water and sewer rates and a $125 yearly library subscription fee. Last year’s budget was $157.8 million.

The budget did not include funding for 20 additional police officers and five communication officers, something that council members have said they wanted to include this year.

If the city does not choose to implement the library subscription fee, the city would need $800,000 to balance the budget, Shelton said.

Staff presented a number of options, ranging from eliminating contributions to outside agencies to closing the base recreation center, animal shelter and cutting some positions.

Shelton said one way to make up the $800,000 gap that would occur if the city doesn’t adopt a library subscription fee would be to increase property taxes by 2.6 mills to 68.7 mills. The rate has been set at 66.1 mills since 2011.

“Given the bad news on the general operating funds, we are all going to have to make some pretty hard decisions this budget year,” city manager Tom Leath said.

Shelton said that property tax and business license revenues are not increasing, but there has been growth in operations costs and maintenance of new capital projects.

“Its just a matter of, if you want this, what are you going to do about it? Or are you going to raise taxes to get it? Or a combination of both?” Leath said.

Solid waste fees would be increased by $2.40 per month, from $20.50 to $22.90, and that increase would pay for an additional residential service crew.

A 2.8 percent rate increase for water and sewer feeds also was included in the proposed budget.

Other topics to be discussed this week include construction of a $10 million performing arts center and the future of Whispering Pines Golf Course. Almost 54 percent of Myrtle Beach voters in November supported the referendum that allows the city to purchase $10 million in bonds to build the performing arts center. The referendum passed 1,915 to 1,641.

The municipal golf course has lost an average of $250,000 per year over the last four years and council is looking at options that could include closing the course.

The retreat will continue Monday at 8 a.m.