Friday's editorial encourages the Myrtle Beach council to press for an earlier property-tax rollback for city homeowners, while expressing our continued distaste for the new sales tax itself.
Home rule goes only as far as the S.C. General Assembly desires. Members of the Myrtle Beach City Council are up against that often unpleasant fact of municipal governance in wanting to give homeowners an early rollback on property taxes.
The state law allowing the added penny (1 percent) of sales tax - the tourism development fee - allows the city to use a portion of the sales tax revenue for a property tax credit in the third year of the additional penny of sales tax.
Mark Kruea, the knowledgeable spokesman for the city, explains that making the property tax rollback effective a year earlier is "not something the city can do" on its own, however much the elected council members so desire. This is so because of the wording of the state law.
Kruea says he expects the council to vote next week on a resolution asking the General Assembly to change the law to allow the property tax credit in the second year of the additional penny sales tax.
Any sales tax is regressive, especially during a recession. Those hardest hit pay the same tax, and nonhomeowners cannot receive a property tax credit, which, by the way, will surpass what most homeowners pay in the additional sales tax.
While the added sales tax is a hardship for some in these tough times, the tax may have helped bring about a much better summer and early fall tourism season.
Kruea puts it this way: The tourism development fee (sales tax) generated advertising, which brought more visitors to the Myrtle Beach area, which put more dollars in the area economy. And he says the City Council "connected the dots" and by means of the added sales tax helped make "a tremendous effect" for tourism business.
Because of the time frame in collection and distribution of the tax, "We won't see any of the [added penny sales tax] money until later this month," Kruea says. The Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, which receives the tourism development revenue, borrowed money to purchase the advertising.
Kruea points out that tourism development is benefiting the entire Grand Strand, not only the city.
The timing of the property tax credit illustrates how much municipalities and county governments remain creatures of the state. This is especially so in South Carolina, compared to some other states. The legislative branch holds close to its power.
The Myrtle Beach City Council should approve the resolution to press the legislature for changing the tourism development fee, and all Horry County state representatives and state senators should work for the change.