June 22, 2008

Myrtle's Million to Boot Bikers

Photo byjimbrickett

Myrte Beach SC passed a million dollar property tax increase last week. The money will be used to find alternatives to the motorcycle rallies that dominate the town's tourism in May and Oct. No I am not making this up!.
I first heard the news on WUNC's The State of Things. They interviewed the tourism reporter for the Myrtle Beach Sun News. It seems residents and some businesses are fed up with bikers, both the noise and the nuisances they create. The city has hosted 2 major bike rallies in May, the first Harley convention, the second a more broad based rally of mostly African-American bikers. About 200 residents showed up at a city council meeting to demand the city stop the decades old events, citing fights and of course the constant drone of the tailpipes (gotta love the sound of a finely tuned tail pipe in the morning) The city raised property taxes by about 4 cents (thats about 5%) to develop and fund alternative tourist activities in the shoulder months. Not everyone is happy about the move. Bike shops and other's who enjoyed the business boost brought by the bikers are moving to protest the plan but, from the paper at least, it looks like council is set on the new funds. Today's article cites some of the ideas for replacement and the debate over the ban. If you want to read a lot more of the debate check out the forum on this topic at the MBSN
It seems hard to imagine that a tourist town government would want to raise taxes and drive away tourists at the same time. Yet that's what seems to be going on.
There is a bit of a back story. In SC property taxe increases are capped at the rate of inflation. They can be raised beyond that index only for specific purposes. The council had been discussing a tax increase to fund a regional transit plan. It didn't happen, instead they raised taxes to run out vehicles that get around 50 mpg. Go figure. (see Note below for more on property taxes in MB)
The local bike week has its critics as well. Some say its too loud and cloggs the roads, but no one is suggesting increasing taxes 5% to get rid of it. (At least not yet).
When I think about Myrtle Beach I can't help but remember the broohaha about their advertising slogan: "Myrtle Beach - The Ideal Alternative to a Virginia Beach Vacation"
I thought we might use the same strategy to advertise some local destinations:
  • South Nags Head - The atlernative to a Va. Beach vacation, no strip, no high rise hotels, no beach
  • Kill Devil Hills - Just like Nags Head but with a beach
  • Corrolla - Once you get here, you'll never want to leave (because the traffic is soooo bad)
  • South Nags Head A Duck vacation without the traffic jam.
  • Roanoke Island - Where America was born, and you weren't
Note: SC has an interesting property tax structure. Primary residences are taxed at a lower rate than commercial property and second homes. In Myrtle the difference is about 30%. The distribution of state revenues is different as well. Property taxes provide most of the support for the local schools, unlike NC where teacher salaries are paid by the state. The average property in MB is valued around $197,000 The total tax bill is around $1,878. In Nags Head the tax bill on this property would be uner $1,200 (town and county). MB also assesses fees for the use of everything from beach parking to renting a ball field or convention center. Homeowners pay $15.75 a month for trash pickup. Different strokes for different folks. MB budget ordinance with fee list here.


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