Horry County’s ‘Alternative Facts’ Explanation on Tax Notice Billing

August 28, 2018 7:39 PM
Horry County’s ‘Alternative Facts’ Explanation on Tax Notice Billing

It appears Horry County Government is using the Sean Spicer/Kellyanne Conway ‘alternative facts’ method for reporting how Horry County missed billing property taxes on some new car purchases over the last four years.

According to a story reported in MyHorryNews.com earlier today, Horry County failed to process digital records on 4,444 vehicles purchased between 2014-2017, resulting in failure by the county to bill first year property taxes on the vehicles.

According to the story, County spokesperson Kelly Moore blamed the failure on a “technical glitch” and was quoted as saying in part, “New software programs come with a learning curve, and sometimes, unfortunately, with technical difficulties.”

Horry County Auditor Lois Eargle was quoted in the same story, “That was nothing that was fault of the auditor’s office. …  It was the new software that came in.”

The Auditor’s Office is responsible for preparing property tax bills on new car purchases that do not transfer license plates from another vehicle and for entering that information into the computer system.

A letter was prepared by the Auditor’s Office to be sent to the citizens affected by this issue.

The letter, the full text of which is attached to the bottom of this story, reads in part, “We recently discovered an error in the processing system that manages vehicle property taxes. After changing software in 2014, a technical glitch did not send an initial vehicle tax bill to some taxpayers who purchased a new vehicle when they did not transfer license tags.”

The new software was purchased from QS/1 Governmental Solutions whose headquarters is located in Spartanburg, SC.

Reflecting on the story and the county’s explanation of a “technical glitch” that apparently took four years to discover, I called QS/1 Governmental Solutions for an explanation. I spoke with Perry Burnett, Government Senior Account Executive, the QS/1 employee who deals directly with Horry County Government.

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The Buffoonery Continues in Myrtle Beach

August 26, 2018 7:14 AM
The Buffoonery Continues in Myrtle Beach

I have been absent from posting for the last week as I was enjoying some family time with my daughters and three of my grandchildren as well as my sister and her family. We all need to take time occasionally to remember what is really most important.

During my hiatus, social media has been alive with talk about the ridiculous and probably illegal decision by Myrtle Beach city council members to put their Ocean Boulevard destruction plan into effect.

One post I read by Mande Wilkes was particularly on point regarding the alleged “family friendly” overlay district that was recently approved.

That post is reprinted here:

Wrote Wilkes, “Why did the city target this particular stretch? Certainly not because of a legitimate public safety concern. Of 136 arrests that occurred within the very recent past, 53 were alcohol-related. Not a single one of those arrests involved any of the banned items.

“Officials claim their actions are in service of engineering family-friendliness, but all evidence points to more sinister intentions.

“It appears that nearly 100 percent of affected businesses are owned or operated by Jewish people. Whether that’s by design or mere coincidence, the effect is that Jews — a protected class under the Constitution — are being disproportionately displaced by the city’s bizarre vote.

“Even more galling is the deprivation of property rights. Any sane zoning decision uses a “grandfather” provision to preserve existent businesses. In the absence of this very ordinary provision, expect in the coming months to see shuttered store fronts and foreclosure signs and a much longer line at the unemployment office.

“Downtown could be a ghost town by Dec. 31, when the law, unless challenged, will take effect.

“The prevailing bedrock of our justice system is predictability: Courts routinely reject laws that are arbitrary, hasty and vague.

“Imagine what potential investors are thinking right now! Surely they’re reluctant to sign leases, take out mortgages, purchase inventory, install fixtures, and open their doors when, at any moment, local government can waste it all with the wave of a hand.”

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Myrtle Beach City Council Approves Product Ban

August 17, 2018 3:34 AM
Myrtle Beach City Council Approves Product Ban

Myrtle Beach City Council Tuesday approved an overlay district on a portion of Ocean Boulevard that will ban legal products from being sold on the basis they are not “family friendly.”

Family friendly is an excuse the city administrator and city council roll out when they have no solid reason for doing something.

In my opinion, the majority five council members who voted for the ban, Brenda Bethune, Phil Render, Mike Chestnut, Jackie Vereen and Mary Jeffcoat took a position on the issue that is arrogant, ill-considered and downright embarrassing.

If the five believe the issue is settled, I doubt it is.

To quote Winston Churchill after the Battle of Britain, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Churchill was correct, five long years of war remained.

I fully expect the legality of the ordinance to be challenged in court. But city council doesn’t care because they will not be paying from their pockets to defend a lawsuit if one is forthcoming. It will be your taxpayer dollars that are wasted just as they were with the ill-fated helmet law council passed some years ago.

Local attorney Reese Boyd pointed out during the meeting that the ordinance has changed by 70 percent or more since it passed first reading in May 2017. This draws into question whether the ordinance received a true second and final reading Tuesday.

The ordinance targets businesses that are Jewish owned bringing into question how it stands up to the anti-discrimination precepts contained in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

It is absolutely ridiculous that a targeted product can be sold on one block of Ocean Boulevard but not on the next, as will be the case if the ordinance withstands expected legal challenges. “Family friendly” is evidently determined by geography.

Is it because of who owns the targeted businesses and not about what they sell?

If so, it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility that a case of conspiracy could be alleged.

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Family Friendly Propaganda Resurfaces for Ocean Boulevard

August 12, 2018 3:52 AM
Family Friendly Propaganda Resurfaces for Ocean Boulevard

The “Family Friendly” propaganda is out in full force as Myrtle Beach City Council prepares to debate an entertainment overlay district ordinance for Ocean Boulevard this week.

The ordinance would ban the sale of certain products such as hookah pipes, tobacco, CBD oil and what it calls sexually suggestive merchandise, all of which are entirely legal products, within the overlay district.

All of this is purportedly being done because these products are not considered “family friendly” by at least some city council and city staff members.

In attempting to explain the ordinance, Mayor Brenda Bethune was quoted in local media last week as saying, “I’m not saying that those businesses are not what we want, I’m just saying that there currently is some merchandise that is not really in the scope of being family friendly,”

And it’s not like the city is attempting to ban the sale of these products citywide, merely along a specially selected section of Ocean Boulevard.

Bethune again, “We are not trying to target legal merchandise and say you can’t sell this anywhere in the city. What we’re saying is there’s a perception issue with some of these products, and they do attract children, they are marketed for children, and that it does promote drug use.”

So it’s okay if these products supposedly “attract children” and “promote drug use” at, say, Coastal Grand Mall or Broadway at the Beach, but not along Ocean Boulevard?

Interestingly, alcohol products, beer, wine and spirits, are not on the proposed list of banned products for the overlay district, although it could be argued that the effects of those products have done much more to ruin families than hookah pipes and sexually suggestive t-shirts.

Of course the mayor and some of the most vocal supporters of this “family friendly” overlay ordinance own beer distributorships and/or bars and restaurants that sell things such as ‘liquid nitrogen cocktails.’

Considering what is on the list of banned products and what is left off, it is highly suggestive this proposed ordinance is not about creating a “family friendly” atmosphere at all. It appears to be targeted at a select group of businesses, owned by Jewish merchants, who are already experiencing a decline in retail sales.

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Is Further Expansion of SWA Landfill Needed?

August 4, 2018 8:00 AM
Is Further Expansion of SWA Landfill Needed?

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority’s latest plan to extend operations at the Hwy 90 landfill until approximately 2050 appears to have sprung out of nowhere in recent months for no apparent reason.

At a recent board meeting, SWA Executive Director Danny Knight told board members the latest expansion plan was moving forward because it was the authority’s responsibility to maximize the use of available land at the Hwy 90 site for waste disposal.

Actually, that statement runs counter to the ordinance that established the SWA in December 1990. Ordinance 60-90 states there is a need to develop an acceptable alternative for solid waste disposal and to reduce the amount of tonnage disposed in sanitary landfills in Horry County. It further states the high water table and other geologic characteristics in Horry County “make utilization and expansion of the existing landfill and development of new landfills especially expensive and difficult.”

Through the years since the authority’s opening in 1992, that section of the ordinance has been forgotten or ignored by a succession of SWA staff and board members.

The timeline set by the SWA for what is being called “Piggyback Expansion Phase III” hopes for a permit for the expansion to be issued by SCDHEC in June 2019 even though Piggyback Phase II is only now under construction and Phase III will not be needed until 2040 at projected disposal rates.

Why the rush? Shouldn’t the SWA staff and board members be seeking alternative means of disposal of the county’s solid waste?

The answer to the first question is not available to the public and not known by county council members, only a few of whom have recently become aware of these expansion plans.

The answer to the second question is “Yes” only if the SWA board and staff believe it is their responsibility to obey the law that established the authority in the first place. To date that has not been the case.

And what of the cost? It was only 18 months ago that the SWA projected a $33 million shortfall in needed funds by 2024 unless it received a nearly 50% increase in tipping fees. County council approved an immediate $7 per ton increase with additional $1 per year increases as the SWA needs them.

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County Council Votes Hospitality Tax Funds for Public Safety and I-73

July 27, 2018 4:10 AM
County Council Votes Hospitality Tax Funds for Public Safety and I-73

Last Tuesday’s special meeting of Horry County Council provided some interesting insights into ongoing deliberations about the future use of hospitality tax revenue.

Technically called a hospitality fee by Horry County Government, the two and one-half percent tax is collected on all tourist accommodations, prepared foods and attraction tickets sold throughout the county. The revenue is split with one cent per dollar going to the jurisdiction (municipality or unincorporated county) in which it is collected.

The remaining one and one-half cent per dollar goes to the county to pay off Ride I bonds. Those bonds are expected to be paid off in the first half of calendar year 2019.

A sunset provision was placed on the one and one-half cent per dollar tax, when legislation implementing the tax in Horry County was passed, providing that portion of the tax would end when the bonds were paid off.

County council voted in Spring 2017 to remove the sunset provision and extend the tax indefinitely. The one and one-half cent per dollar tax is expected to generate $41 million revenue in calendar year 2019.

When the sunset provision was removed by a three reading ordinance of county council last spring, council chairman Mark Lazarus stated he would like to use the revenue to fund construction of Interstate 73. The projected revenue would have allowed the county to bond approximately $500 million for a 20-year period to help fund the I-73 project. It is expected completion of the I-73 portion from I-95 near Dillon to U.S. 17 in Myrtle Beach will cost approximately $1.2 billion.

This spring, Johnny Gardner challenged Lazarus for the Republican nomination for council chairman on the November 2018 general election ballot. During the primary campaign, Gardner focused on the public safety and infrastructure needs of the county, proposing using a portion of hospitality tax revenue to help meet those needs. Gardner won the nomination in June 2018 primary voting.

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