MB Mayor says council will be thanked for sales tax hike

Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said he and council will someday be thanked by the business community for implementing an additional one-cent-per-dollar sales tax.

"When it's all over, all said and done -- when the tourists pick up and the exposure is out there for us, I feel that the people, the business community will come back and thank us for what we've done," Rhodes said a few minutes after the unanimous vote to add a penny to the sales tax.

The revenue generated over ten years will be given to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to be used for out-of-market tourism promotion.

"For Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand to have this (money from the tax) available is unprecedented, and it is a game-changer for us in the tourism industry," said Brant Branham, the chairman of the board of directors for the Chamber.

Similar sentiments were echoed at the city council meeting on Tuesday from people with strong ties to the tourism industry.

"It's extremely needed. The more we advertise, the more business we're going to get. It's a matter of numbers," explained Ned Williams of Brittain Resort Management.

But it's not all support for the new tax, and a significant number of citizens and small business owners lambasted city council over its decision.

"It's a stab in the heart. It's a stab in the pockets that are already empty," said Tricia Cunningham who owns an advertising agency in Myrtle Beach.

Cunningham, and others, think Myrtle Beach is trying to make up for the revenue lost and the void left from running off bikers.

"They made a horrible mistake a year ago, and they're trying to tax us for it. So they made the mistake, and we've got to pay for it twice," she said.

Others insisted the council has ignored the blue collar population and people who are suffering in this recession.

"The working poor -- there has to be an empathy for that population," said Bennie Swans, a community activist in his Myrtle Beach neighborhood.

"The blue collar is south of 38th (Avenue)... they don't care about that," said George Aakjer who owns a tree trimming service and who opposes the tax.

The extra penny will be on the following goods in Myrtle Beach beginning August 1, 2009:

  • Prepared food (includes restaurant meals) 11.5%
  • Retail sales (clothing, books, computers, etc.) 9%
  • Accommodations (lodging) 13%
  • Other guest charges and sales at hotels, etc. 9%
  • Admission tickets 8.5%
  • Mixed liquor drinks 11.5% to 16.5%

By law, the tax will sunset after ten years, and the Chamber estimates in the first year it may generate around $16 million.

The ordinance also mandates that after the second year, beginning in August 2011, property owners of owner-occupied properties will get relief on their property taxes.

The key word is owner-occupied. Unless you own and live in the property full-time, you will not see the relief.

According to Myrtle Beach City Spokesman Mark Kruea, the owner of a $200,000 home can expect savings of around $465 per year on their property tax bill.

For a tax calculator on what you might save, click here.