$175 million Myrtle Beach budget includes 5 percent raise for police and fire, merit raise for all employees

Myrtle Beach police officers and firefighters will receive a 5 percent salary increase and all 850 full-time city employees could receive up to a 3 percent raise within the next year.

Myrtle Beach City Council on Tuesday approved a $175 million budget that included the across-the-board 5 percent increase for those working in the police and fire departments. Those employees, 277 in the police department and 159 in the fire department, also will be eligible for up to an additional 3 percent raise based on performance.

Last month City Manager John Pedersen asked City Council to include a 5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for employees in the police and fire departments – not including the department chiefs.

Chief Financial Officer Michael Shelton said a 5 percent increase would mean an additional $770,000 going to police department salaries and $465,000 for fire department salaries, he said.

Current entry-level certified police officers and entry-level certified firefighters make between $35,425 and $55,264, city spokesman Mark Kruea said. A police records clerk makes between $29,419 and $45,894.

Shelton said it is possible to pay for the salary increase without having to increase city fees or taxes.

Shelton said the city anticipates the police department operating with 5 percent of its positions vacant and the money not being spent on those salaries could fund the cost-of-living adjustment. The fire department has fewer vacant positions so the city approved the money to come from the city’s fund balance, or reserve account.

Shelton presented a $175 million budget Tuesday that includes no property tax increase and no increase to the business license fee structure.

City Council voted last year for a 5 mill property tax increase – with 3 mills dedicated to funding 10 new police officers and 2 mills to pay for security enhancements on Memorial Day weekend.

This is the first merit increase for city employees since the 2011-2012 fiscal year, where employees could have received up to a 3 percent salary increase.

All employees received a flat 2 percent increase last fiscal year, an $800 bonus the year before and a 3 percent flat increase in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or on Twitter @TSN_mprabhu.

Other Myrtle Beach budget highlights for fiscal year 2015-2016:

▪ The $175 million budget is up from $156.9 million last fiscal year.

▪ Myrtle Beach will spend about $1.4 million for 22 new full-time positions in a number of departments including fire, police, planning and the Myrtle Beach Sports Center.

▪ The city will spend $150,000 to purchase the former Fitzgerald Hotel and work with the Booker T. Washington neighborhood to determine the best use for the space.

▪ Residents and businesses will see a 2.5 to 2.8 percent increase in their water bills. Shelton said that it is an additional $1.23 a month for a residential user who averages 7,500 gallons.

▪ Those parking at the convention center will have to pay $5 per car – a $2 increase. Residents who have city parking decals already are able to park for free. Residents whose vehicles are registered in the city of Myrtle Beach and who pay taxes on that vehicle are eligible for the decals.

▪ Myrtle Beach is adding a three-month membership option for the city’s recreation centers, which currently only allows monthly or yearly memberships. An adult who keeps a residence in Myrtle Beach will now pay $75 for a three-month membership, beginning July 1. Monthly membership currently is $30 per month.