Myrtle Beach City Council members passed the first reading to renew the controversial 1-percent Tourism Development Fee.
Council members chose to reinstate the tax through a super-majority vote, meaning residents did not have a say in whether or not they want the tax. Not one member opposed the tax.
"Since 2009 there have been five municipal elections," councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat said. "There has not been one candidate to win in those elections who did not support the TDF. So, I would say to you today that this audience overwhelmingly supports the TDF."
President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Brad Dean also spoke at the meeting, citing projects the TDF has helped fund such as the boardwalk and sports complex and the number of direct flights that come into the area.
"I hope the people who come up here today and tell you not to pass this will come up with their solution on how to create 4,500 jobs," Dean said. "The TDF has been good for this community."
However, residents who have openly opposed the tax in the past did speak against the Tourism Development Fee.
Ed Carey, who formerly ran for mayor, presented a petition he said was signed by 300 people.
"Mayor, you ran on the platform the city need to be more transparent," Carey said. "How does taking the rights of your constituents to vote build trust in city government? I beg you to have the same trust in the people that the people have who voted for you."
The tax, which is mainly used for out-of-area marketing, was first implemented in the city in 2009 by former Mayor John Rhodes.
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 property tax rebates. The rest of the money can go back to the city.
She continued, saying Mike Shelton will now be included on all annual audit reports with the board, and that the chamber's independent auditors will publicly present to council the report they give to the chamber's board.
In the City of Myrtle Beach, 80 percent of the tax goes to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for out-of-state marketing.
Fourteen percent goes for property tax relief, and six percent is used for tourism-related capital projects.
Council must pass a second reading of the ordinance. If it passes, the tax will be in effect until Aug. 1, 2029.
Before the vote, however, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said the chamber will have its fourth quarter annual report online
"I’ve not had one resident come to me personally and say do not support the TDF," councilman Mike Lowder said. "I’ve not had one phone call. Let me just say this loud and clear, 110 percent I support the TDF and my vote today will be yes."