By Paul Gable
Spring means many things, but to local governments it means tax time, or consideration of whether to raise taxes or not.
One year after Horry County Council passed the largest tax increase in county history, the cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach are looking to follow suit.
Both city councils are considering a property tax increase and increases in other fees that could significantly impact citizens and businesses.
To be fair, some of the reasons for the tax increase can be directly attributed to the General Assembly. This can be thought of as an indirect tax on citizens from Columbia.
Two areas come to mind quickly, the refusal of the General Assembly to fully fund the Local Government Fund and the need to make up billions of dollars of shortfall in the public pension funds.
The Local Government Fund is a return of state taxes, which is supposed to reimburse local governments for expenditures on state mandated agencies included in local budgets. The General Assembly, however, prefers to pass annual exemptions in order to underfund this return of tax dollars to local communities.
In this way, the General Assembly can appear to be holding the line on taxes while blaming the local governments for tax increases. Never mind that the state laws requiring these agencies came from the same body that refuses to live up to its mandated level to fund them.
The General Assembly is looking to increase the percentage local governments must contribute, per employee, for all employees included in the various state pension plans. This increase would take the local agency contributions from the current 8.16% of an employee’s annual salary to 11.5% of that salary.
I would submit the increase is needed because the General Assembly has refused to perform its fiduciary oversight responsibilities of the SC Retirement System Investment Commission.
But, a tax increase there will be. It seems a bit hypocritical to raise taxes on locals, most of whom have no pension plan (or even a pay scale equivalent to government employees), to pay for a rather generous pension plan for government workers, not to mention a 4% across the board pay increase Myrtle Beach proposes for its employees.
It must be pointed out that none of these recommended tax and fee increases have passed final reading yet, so there could be some adjustment. However, when talk is as it is now, expect to pay more taxes in the coming year.
And what do local citizens get for an increase in their taxes?
Here’s what one Grand Strand Daily reader said in an email, speaking in the main about Myrtle Beach, but also including other local governments that are considering tax increases:
“… locals are going to get hit hard by a careless nonchalant attitude of elected officials and appointees.
“The Local will be hit the hardest and gain nothing by the influx of thousands of tourists, vacationers, visitors etc. Locals can expect grocery items to be increasing anywhere from 8 to 10 cents per sales items; vehicular gas hikes; heavy gridlock of traffic; more mopeds, scooters, beach buggies roaming the streets; piles more of garbage-air pollution-road rage-hike in theater tickets- increase in crime-rape-vice-murders burglaries larcenies vandalism; and on and on.”
That pretty much says it all.