By Paul Gable
While attending a meeting with several Coast RTA officials nearly a month ago, I was asked several times if I had an explanation for why funding from Horry County for Coast RTA is treated differently than funding for the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.
I had no other answer than the potential political clout of MBREDC board members compared to that of Coast RTA board members.
In the current fiscal year budget, Coast RTA is budgeted to receive $1.055 million from Horry County with some questions remaining about the upcoming May 1, 2014 fourth quarter payment of approximately $263,000.
The MBREDC is receiving $1.3 million from Horry County this year with no strings attached. That funding is down from $1.8 million for the last two years with some provisions for the possibility of receiving up to the $500,000 cut pending council action.
Now we are seeing media reports that the MBREDC wants to guarantee its funding in the amount of $60 million over a 15 year period either through a straight tax millage increase by Horry County or inclusion in a referendum question for upcoming RIDE III funding.
The second option would require a change to the current capital projects sales tax state law, ordinance approval by Horry County Council and a majority referendum vote by Horry County voters.
Favorable comments about the second option were attributed to several members of county council in media reports.
Coast RTA received the support of 62.5% of Horry County voters for county funding, in the amount of .6 mill (six-tenths of a mill), in an advisory referendum conducted in 2010.
Since county voters have already approved .6 mill funding for Coast RTA, albeit in an advisory referendum not a binding one, why is the county placing more requirements on Coast RTA (ie. more representation on its board) and not asking the same of MBREDC?
Since the days of Lymo and the Benedict Shogaolu disaster, Coast RTA has revamped itself and moved strongly forward on providing bus service for workers from western Horry County to jobs at the beach.
To date, MBREDC has been nothing but an organization of big promises with little actual results.
If the county is going to guarantee funding to an independent agency, doesn’t it make sense to fund one that is providing results and has already been approved by voters?