Last Tuesday’s special meeting of Horry County Council provided some interesting insights into ongoing deliberations about the future use of hospitality tax revenue.
Technically called a hospitality fee by Horry County Government, the two and one-half percent tax is collected on all tourist accommodations, prepared foods and attraction tickets sold throughout the county. The revenue is split with one cent per dollar going to the jurisdiction (municipality or unincorporated county) in which it is collected.
The remaining one and one-half cent per dollar goes to the county to pay off Ride I bonds. Those bonds are expected to be paid off in the first half of calendar year 2019.
A sunset provision was placed on the one and one-half cent per dollar tax, when legislation implementing the tax in Horry County was passed, providing that portion of the tax would end when the bonds were paid off.
County council voted in Spring 2017 to remove the sunset provision and extend the tax indefinitely. The one and one-half cent per dollar tax is expected to generate $41 million revenue in calendar year 2019.
When the sunset provision was removed by a three reading ordinance of county council last spring, council chairman Mark Lazarus stated he would like to use the revenue to fund construction of Interstate 73. The projected revenue would have allowed the county to bond approximately $500 million for a 20-year period to help fund the I-73 project. It is expected completion of the I-73 portion from I-95 near Dillon to U.S. 17 in Myrtle Beach will cost approximately $1.2 billion.
This spring, Johnny Gardner challenged Lazarus for the Republican nomination for council chairman on the November 2018 general election ballot. During the primary campaign, Gardner focused on the public safety and infrastructure needs of the county, proposing using a portion of hospitality tax revenue to help meet those needs. Gardner won the nomination in June 2018 primary voting.