Living in the City of Myrtle Beach has major benefits

Do city residents get more benefits because they live inside the city limits?  Absolutely.  As many people have discovered, just because your address says “Myrtle Beach,” that doesn’t mean that you actually live in the City of Myrtle Beach.  But for genuine city residents, the bonuses are many.

City residents and businesses pay city property taxes which help support the many services that Myrtle Beach offers.  If your home or business is outside the city limits, then you aren’t supporting those services through your property taxes.  That’s why in-city residents get discounts on recreation center memberships – and why non-residents pay more to use city facilities.  (Note:  Veterans get the in-city membership rate at recreation centers, whether they live in the city or not.)

Parking is another example of how city property taxes result in benefits.  Personal vehicles which are registered inside the city limits pay city property taxes.  The city counts those taxes as your payment for parking.  That’s why personal-use vehicles which “live” in the city are eligible for one of the resident parking decals.

If you think of paid parking as a user fee, then everyone pays for parking.  City residents do it through their annual vehicle tax, and they pay whether they ever use the space or not; non-residents pay at the meter, when they actually occupy a parking space.

For the most part, city residents are well aware of what they receive in return for their taxes.  Here’s a short list of the benefits:

• 24-hour police protection
• traffic enforcement
• crime prevention programs
• school resource officers
• ISO 1 fire protection
• 24-hour EMS response
• street construction and maintenance
• street cleaning
• stormwater drainage maintenance and improvement
• parks and playgrounds
• recreation facilities and programs
• two off-leash dog parks
• community planning, zoning and development review
• construction services and code enforcement
• municipal court
• various economic development services
• street tree plantings and maintenance
• all municipal management, support and legislative services

For a typical city resident with an average home and two average cars, the cost for all of this – including taxes, solid waste collection, recycling pick-up, and water and sewer service – is less than $100 per month.  Compare that with your typical monthly cell phone or cable TV bill, and city residency appears to be a bargain.

Owner-occupied homes get an extra benefit, in the form of a credit on their city property taxes.  The credit is thanks to the one cent Tourism Development Fee.  Currently, the credit is equal to about 80 percent of the city’s ad valorem tax on the home, although that percentage will decline slightly over time, as more new homes are built.

Many non-residents automatically say, “I don’t want to pay higher city taxes, so I don’t want to be annexed.”  But when you do the math and consider the benefits, being inside the city limits may even save money, especially when you consider the cost of water and sewer service.

In South Carolina, annexation is in the property owner’s hands.  State law provides three methods for annexation, and all start with the property owner.  Property to be annexed must touch (be contiguous to) in-city property or must be in a defined area that touches current in-city property.

In this state, cities and towns can’t just reach out and annex unincorporated areas.  As a result of that quirk, the city limits line zigs and zags, as shown on the attached map.  Nearly four dozen “doughnut holes,” or enclaves, are completely surrounded by the city, but are not in the city.  Broadway Station Condominium on 38th Avenue North is one example.

By the way, all Myrtle Beach residents also are Horry County residents, but not all Horry County residents are Myrtle Beach residents.  City residents also pay county property taxes, except for special service districts, and get county services in return.  By paying both city and county taxes, city residents are paying twice for a couple of items:  library service and EMS service.  Both of those are county responsibilities, but city residents pay extra to provide additional service within the city limits.

Of course, city residents have one more benefit than non-residents.  City residents can serve on city council and vote in municipal elections, which occur every two years.