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Emphasis on public safety in upcoming Myrtle Beach budget

Leaders in Myrtle Beach discussed a new operating budget Monday. Public safety was among the most popular points of discussion. (Bill Mannix/WPDE)

It didn't take long for Myrtle Beach City Council members, now in their two-day budget retreat, to talk about public safety.

City Manager John Pederson and his team drafted a budget totaling more than $197,000,000 for Fiscal Year 2018-2019.

23 percent of expenditures are allocated for public safety spending. Of that money, more than $33 million would go to the Myrtle Beach Police Department, which should see a boost ahead of the summer season.

Last year, the department received a $1.25 million federal grant to create positions for 10 additional police officers.

Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock said Monday, six of those spots have been filled and that qualified applicants applied to the other openings.

She thanked the council for the budget projection.

"This is really helpful for our community and public safety efforts that we are focusing on," said Prock. "We want to make sure that we continue to keep our community safe, but also work toward efforts to expand our agency to work to everything that we need to cover our community."

The question facing council members is how to pay for it.

Monday, council members debated multiple options including a 3 mill tax increase, a tax primarily affecting secondary homeowners or business owners in Myrtle Beach, City Manager John Pederson said. The raise would essentially add an extra dollar per month to a homeowner with a home worth $50,000.

Pederson said the safety protection is the number one priority. He said months of discussions have led the council to realize there will likely have to be alternative options to fund the budget.

"We basically said that was going to be the case when we presented the two public safety plans, the recruitment and retention and also the staffing and employment plan," he said. "There's just no way of getting around that there's additional cost there."

They also discussed a four percent increase in water and sewage fees.

No word on exactly when the council will decide on the budget. City leaders will reconvene tomorrow morning to finish the two-day summit.

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