Post Tagged with: "Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce"

Budget Time for Local Governments

March 21, 2017 1:02 PM
Budget Time for Local Governments

This week will see several local governments, particularly Myrtle Beach and Horry County, in budget workshops as next year’s revenue and spending is considered.

If you have never seen the local budget process in action, you should consider at least watching some of the workshop meetings on local cable television or live streaming on the internet.

After all, it’s your money they are spending and services for you they are supposed to be providing.

Much of the discussion will be on the agencies’ respective general funds. Those are the funds that pay for public safety, public works, administration and so forth.

For each agency, approximately 65% of general fund expenditures are for personnel pay and benefits.

However, the respective general funds are not the only budget areas that affect local citizens.

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority, which is a component unit of Horry County Government, is asking for a $7 per ton increase on the cost of dumping municipal solid waste (household garbage) at the Highway 90 landfill.

If county council approves a rise in the SWA MSW tipping fee, every household and business in the county will be paying more for garbage disposal.

The City of Myrtle Beach parking fees, which go to the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation and are currently helping fund the taking of businesses through the use of eminent domain, are a problem for all county residents.

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WestJet Deal Still Haunts County

July 21, 2016 6:07 AM
WestJet Deal Still Haunts County

A 2013 contract between WestJet Airlines and Horry County Government is still costing the county three years later.

Boiling the deal down to its essence, Horry County Council agreed to guarantee WestJet a 15 percent profit on a new airline route established for the 2013 summer tourist season. The county placed a maximum payout of $1 million on its guarantee.

At the time the deal was struck, we heard pronouncements from members of county council such as it was ‘almost guaranteed that this deal would not cost the county one cent.’

Instead the county owed WestJet $500,873 at the end of 2013 in order to live up to its contractual obligations.

A meeting of the Horry County Administration Committee, held on October 11, 2013, agreed to a payment plan whereby the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce would pay WestJet the total amount due and the county would repay the Chamber out of its 5 percent set aside funds from county accommodations tax.

At that time, a balance of approximately $250,000 was in the county’s set aside account. The remainder would be repaid to the Chamber from county set aside accommodations tax funds in the coming years.

The Administration Committee approved a resolution at its meeting Tuesday to allow for continuing repayment of those funds.

The deal with WestJet raises several points about the functions of county government.

This was a bad deal from the beginning. County government has no business guaranteeing a private business a profit that includes the use of any county tax funds, property or otherwise.

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Hypocritical Attack Ads Target Reese Boyd

June 12, 2016 6:30 PM
Hypocritical Attack Ads Target Reese Boyd

Reese Boyd is making a strong run for the open SC Senate District 34, enough that the Stephen Goldfinch campaign and its cohorts are resorting to absolute hypocrisy in these final days of the campaign.

Reese Boyd and Stephen Goldfinch are both seeking the Republican nomination for SC Senate District 34 in Tuesday’s Republican Primary voting.

If you are following politics at all in this primary season, you have seen, either in your mailbox or on Facebook, Reese Boyd being called a fiscal liberal.

These attacks are coming in mail and on broadcast media from something called the Citizens Alliance for Fiscal Responsibility, which, from everything I can determine, is run by Tom Swatzel of Swatzel Strategies LLC.

Swatzel Strategies has also received payment from the Stephen Goldfinch campaign for campaign consulting. There is an obvious direct tie between the PAC and the Goldfinch campaign.

If Citizens Alliance for Fiscal Responsibility is acting as an independent PAC, even under the Citizens United decision it must have no direct coordination with the campaign.

Why is Boyd being attacked as a fiscal liberal? Because Boyd has refused to sign Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

I support Boyd in not signing Norquist’s bogus pledge, which has never been anything more than a gimmick for elected legislators to claim they are fiscal conservatives.

But, the hypocrisy currently being practiced by the Goldfinch campaign is much worse than just mislabeling Boyd because he wouldn’t agree to forfeit his decision making power if he is elected to the senate.

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General Assembly Extends Tourism Tax

June 3, 2016 5:21 AM
Travis Bell Photographers

The SC General Assembly extended the tourism tax enabling legislation allowing for the extension of the tax on local residents and visitors through 2029.

Both the SC House and SC Senate overwhelmingly overrode the veto of Gov. Nikki Haley on House Bill 5011 making the extension of the tourism tax a virtual guarantee.

The very best part of the tax extension, for the business interests that want it, is that once again the tax can be imposed by a supermajority vote of Myrtle Beach City Council and the citizens will have no say in the process.

There is a provision in the bill that allows for a voter referendum on the question of extending the tax, instead of a vote by city council, but that’s merely window dressing. Myrtle Beach City Council doesn’t let those kinds of decisions go to the voters and it doesn’t say no to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber will be guaranteed hundreds of millions more public tax dollars to use in “out-of-area” marketing. I wonder how much of that is being used in China?

The hotel and golf course owners who control the Chamber board get to keep marketing dollars in their pocket while transferring those expenses to the taxpayer.

And we can hear 10 more years of “Oh yeah, it’s working” ads.

You have to give credit where it is due. This extension was slickly handled and was really never in doubt. So far, there have not even been whispers of how many, if any, sequentially numbered cashier’s checks, from those “like minded” individuals, were needed this time around to get the job done.

We are told free market capitalism is a wonderful thing. Maybe we can even experience it in Myrtle Beach, Horry County and South Carolina someday.

Until then, all those “anti-tax Republicans” we supposedly send to Columbia can continue to forget their campaign promises while continuing to practice crony capitalism and corporate welfare with our tax dollars.

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Myrtle Beach Tourism Tax Renewal Hits Bump

May 21, 2016 6:41 PM
Myrtle Beach Tourism Tax Renewal Hits Bump

The effort to renew state legislation that allows the Myrtle Beach tourism tax hit a bump this week in the SC House Ways and Means Committee.

The bill, S1122, originally introduced in the SC Senate in February 2016 by local senators Greg Hembree, Ray Cleary and Luke Rankin breezed through the Senate without a single no vote.

The SC House reported the bill out of the Ways and Means Committee with an important amendment that could have an interesting overall impact on whether the current one-cent local sales tax for tourism promotion gets renewed.

The Ways and Means Committee struck the provision that the tourism tax could be renewed (reimposed) by “an ordinance adopted by a supermajority of the municipal council which must be at least two-thirds of the members of the municipal council.”

The only provision remaining in the bill for reimposition of the tax is the “approval of a majority of qualified electors voting in a referendum held pursuant to this section called by a majority of the members of the municipal council.”

Myrtle Beach City Council imposed the tax on the general public in 2009 with a supermajority vote of council. The tax was never put before the voters in a referendum, allegedly for fear it would not pass.

If the amended bill successfully passes vote of the full House, it will be interesting to see if the elimination of the supermajority option to renew the bill withstands conference committee.

When it was first passed through an ordinance approved by a supermajority vote of Myrtle Beach City Council in 2009, the local option tourism development fee became the first and only local option sales tax (that’s what it is) to be enacted in the history of the state without a referendum vote of approval.

The result of the tax is the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce receives over $20 million public tax dollars each year to spend on out of area tourism advertising.

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Beaufort County Court Decision Could Impact MBACC

March 3, 2016 9:08 AM
Beaufort County Court Decision Could Impact MBACC

A recent court decision in Beaufort County could have an interesting impact in Myrtle Beach.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles ruled the Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce must allow public access to information regarding how the chamber spends public funds under the provisions of the South Carolina Freedom of Information Law.

Hilton Head businessman Skip Hoagland brought a lawsuit for access to the chamber’s records of how public funds are spent. At issue were the accommodations tax monies that the chamber receives from the towns of Hilton Head and Bluffton as well as Beaufort County and grant money from the SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

The Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce argued its records were not subject to FOIA requests since it is a private, non-profit organization.

In his ruling, Nettles noted the SC Freedom of Information Law defines, “any organization, corporation or agency supported in whole or in part by public funds or expending public funds,” as a public body.

Nettles also noted that while the chamber provides a budget and accounting summary of how those funds are spent, neither provides specific information on, for example, vendors used.

The MBACC receives approximately $5 million per year from City of Myrtle Beach accommodations tax collections and approximately $22 million per year from the city’s one-cent tourism sales tax. In addition, the MBACC receives approximately $6 million from Horry County accommodations tax collections and approximately $5 million or more annually from SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism grants.

The MBACC uses those funds for “out-of-area” tourism marketing. Through the years, the MBACC has been criticized by non-members for giving preferential treatment in its marketing efforts to chamber members even though public funds are being used to fund them.

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Horry County – Myrtle Beach Land Deal

October 13, 2015 8:06 AM
Horry County – Myrtle Beach Land Deal

Horry County and the City of Myrtle Beach are investigating a joint purchase of the former Hard Rock Theme Park.

According to sources familiar with the talks, the reason for the purchase is to build additional sports fields for the sports tourism industry.

This is not a good idea on several levels.

Horry County and Myrtle Beach should not use public tax dollars for the purchase of land and construction of sports facilities for the tourism industry.

Horry County just raised property taxes by 7.2 mils (the maximum increase allowed by state law) for this current fiscal year ostensibly for pay increases and public safety improvements.

Now it not only proposes to use tax dollars to purchase land and build sports fields, but the purchase of the former theme park property by local governments would remove that land from the tax rolls, a double whammy for local taxpayers.

Horry County already wastes over $1 million per year funding the operations budget of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation. If this is such a good idea, shouldn’t MBREDC be able to recruit private business to purchase the land and build the facilities?

Myrtle Beach raises tens of millions of tax dollars, with its one cent tourism sales tax, that it turns over to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to use for tourism advertising. This is something that should be funded by marketing budgets of the private businesses in the tourism industry.

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Where Is Myrtle Beach City Council?

June 21, 2014 7:30 AM
Where Is Myrtle Beach City Council?

It’s been four weeks since the violence that made national news erupted during the Memorial Day Atlantic Beach Bikefest and Myrtle Beach City Council remains AWOL.

With the city council missing, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce has stepped into the breach ‘considering’ a curfew and offering to pay for more police next year.

Last time I checked, those considerations come under core responsibilities of local government. They should not be suggestions made on the other side of Oak Street.

But, nature abhors a vacuum and the apparent missing status of Myrtle Beach City Council has created a political vacuum.

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Atlantic Beach Bikefest, Money and Myrtle Beach

June 15, 2014 8:20 AM
Atlantic Beach Bikefest, Money and Myrtle Beach

Much has been made about the extra money from accommodations tax that will be available to purchase the services of extra police for next year’s Atlantic Beach Bikefest.

Thanks to quick work in the General Assembly, approximately $2.3 million dollars will be allowed to be diverted from tourism marketing and promotion to law enforcement costs next year.

I have even heard some talk about some of that money being used for private security firms, such as Blackwater Security, if a few additional changes can be made to state law to allow it.

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Coast RTA Funding Agreement Far Exceeds Special Committee Recommendations

June 5, 2014 8:15 AM
Coast RTA Funding Agreement Far Exceeds Special Committee Recommendations

Horry County has apparently found a way to exert the influence it desires over Coast RTA decisions with a proposed funding agreement between the county and the bus agency.

After failing for the last two years to have its membership on the Coast RTA board increased, the county will now have the ability to virtually dictate decisions to the Coast RTA board if the new funding agreement is approved by both sides.

The funding agreement goes far beyond recommendations made by a Special Committee on Coast RTA appointed by Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus. The committee deliberated through four sessions before approving a report to Horry County Council that recommended continuing funding for the agency.

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