North Myrtle Beach residents say 'no' to tourism development fee

Residents in the City of North Myrtle Beach chose not to adopt the Tourism Development Fee, a 1-percent sales tax that would have been used for out-of-area marketing.

"I'm very happy right now that the public actually got out and voiced their opinion, exercised their right to vote," Councilwoman Nikki Fontana said. "It makes me happy for the turnout because usually for a referendum for this, we don't have a large voter turnout, and as you can see, the numbers we had a huge voter turnout."

Just over 3,200 people showed up to vote out of 15,000 registered voters. Out of those voters, 3,050 voted against the tax and 188 voted for it.

The tax, which city council voted to put up for a referendum, also works to give tax rebates and can be a source of money for infrastructure.

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 the rebates. The rest of the money can go back to the city.

In North Myrtle Beach, if the tax had passed, the city planned to give 80 percent of the tax to the chamber, 16 percent would have gone to the city and 4 percent used for tax rebates.

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

"I don't like it," resident Jim Rudge said after voting at the precinct near the Tidewater neighborhood on Tuesday. "I'm voting no. I think if hotels and motels want to start promoting the area, chip in. Why does everybody else have to pay a 1-percent fee? I just don't agree. I don't think it's right."

Now, city officials are working to bring a capital improvement tax to the city, which would work to improve roads, parking, beach renourishment and ocean outfalls.

During a city budget retreat in February, officials considered raising property taxes by two mills, which evens out to $28 on a $350,000 home. A final decision on the budget will not be made until May.

"Basically, that one mill will go for capital improvements, it will go into a capital improvement fund," said North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley said at the retreat. "Another mill will be used for the policing and fire department."

The North Myrtle Beach Election Commission will certify the vote Thursday at 10 a.m.

"Business 101, you've got to have a product before you market, and our product is not finished. We have some issues that we need to fix and then we can reach out," Fontana said. "Who's to say, maybe in a few years from now we might be to the place where maybe this would work, but right now, in my personal opinion, I don't believe that North Myrtle Beach is there. We have some things we need to fix for our residents."

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