Robert M. Clinger III Remarks Before The Sun News Editorial Board

TUESDAY, MAY 23, 2006 | 2:45 Pm

Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to appear before you to
present my views on issues confronting Horry County Council
and the candidates for District #2. As a note, the views I
express here today are my own and are not necessarily those
of any firm or organization with which I may be affiliated.
The first question that I am always asked is: Why did
you decide to enter politics? My answer is simple: I believe
that I can make a difference. In addition, I feel that I have a
lot to give back to this county. I received an excellent
education from Coastal Carolina University. I graduated from
Coastal Carolina University, summa cum laude with a degree
in Finance in May 2000. Though I could have left and gone to
a big city where the opportunities and financial rewards may
have been greater, I chose to stay here and continue building
my life. This area is my home, and I plan to be part of its
future. I think it would be natural for anyone with my finance,
economic, and strategic planning background to want to
participate in the decision making process that is going to help
shape the future of this area.
Following three years at a boutique investment bank here
in Myrtle Beach, I co-founded Highland Global, a strategic
advisory and financial analysis firm that provides merger and
acquisition advisory services, business appraisals, among
other consulting services to privately held and family
controlled companies both in the United States and abroad. I
have written numerous articles on finance, economics,
strategic issues, some of which have been published in
valuation journals. And, I have written two books, The Seven
Deadly Sins of Business Valuation and The Seven Deadly Sins
of Business Valuation: Closely Held & Family Controlled
Companies.
I believe that the combination of my extensive financial
and economic background and my fresh perspective for
strategic planning for the future would be of tremendous value
to the Horry County Council, particularly as we seek to
confront the many challenges that lie ahead. In addition, my
loyalities lie only with the people of Horry County and not with
any special interest group or lobby. My economics oriented
nature of addressing strategic planning, the typical “on the
one hand…but on the other hand” reasoning, will ensure that
I give careful and thorough analysis to each issue that comes
before me on the County Council so that the best interests of
the people of Horry County are served. And when compromise
is necessary, as it will inevitablely be in some cases, I will seek
an outcome that is fair, equitable, and balanced in serving the
interests of all parties involved.
When I started my education at Coastal Carolina
University in the fall of 1996, the population of Horry County
was over 160,000. By the time I graduated in May 2000, the
population had increased by 25% to roughly 200,000. Today,
the population is estimated at over 220,000, and by 2010 the
population is projected to reach over 240,000. By 2025, the
population may be as high as 350,000-400,000.
This growth has brought many challenges, particularly
with respect to our infrastructure, zoning that strikes a
balance between maintaining traditional neighbourhoods and
developments that are necessary to accommodate the growth
in our population, and the increased demand for public
services necessary to maintain and improve our quality of life.
While the Horry County Council has addressed many of
the challenges placed before them as a result of the
tremendous growth in our area in recent years, the
investments that have been made in our infrastructure and
public services have only enabled us to catch up with the
strained demands created by this growth. As yet, we have not
managed to position ourselves ahead of the current growth
and that which is still to come.
In order to accomplish this, we must look to the Envision
2025 Comprehensive Plan for Horry County, which is currently
being updated, as well as the Master Plan for the county which
is being developed jointly by Coastal Carolina University and
Clemson. And while the objectives outlined in the
Comprehensive Plan serve as our roadmap for addressing
future growth, the County Council must examine the issues
before us in a careful and thorough manner so that the
policies developed are conducive to promoting economic and
business growth, protecting the quality of life and our
environment, and providing for the necessary investments in
our infrastructure that will be necessary to accommodate the
future growth of this area.
A proactive approach that plans for the future is the best
way to ensure that we do not fall behind the growth of this
area ever again. But the Council must ensure that the
decisions we make are consistent with the many objectives
and goals set forth in Envision 2025. We must ensure that our
decisions are made with the best interests of the residents of
Horry County in mind and that those decisions are made after
having given careful consideration to economic feasibility and
financial responsibility.
As part of this, I believe that the decisions we make
should be assessed against three criteria:
1. Is the decision being made in the best interests of the
people of Horry County and the community or
communities affected?
In some areas of this county there has been great
concern regarding zoning and density issues,
particularly with new developments. We must
consider if high density developments are appropriate
where the surrounding community is much lower
density. Since we cannot craft a blanket policy that is
applicable for all situations, we must carefully
examine each case that comes before us. In some
cases where development or redevelopment is
inevitable, we must seek to reach a fair and equitable
compromise between those seeking high density and
those seeking to maintain a low density environment.

 

2. Is the outcome of our decision consistent with the
objectives outlined in the Envision 2025
Comprehensive Plan?
We must seek to develop policies that fit within the
framework of the Comprehensive Plan and its many
objectives and goals. For example, our decisions
should help “to establish and implement strategies
that support a sustainable economy through the
creation of public-private partnerships, the
diversification of markets, and the creation of higher
wage jobs, while ensuring an attractive community
and the protection of the natural resources of the
county.”
3. Is this decision fiscally responsible and economically
sound?
The County currently has a surplus stemming from
windfall revenues resulting from building fees
associated with the rapid growth in the last few years.
While there are many ways that this money could be
spent, we must make sure that our decisions are
fiscally responsible. Infrastructure projects must be
prioritized, and we must ensure that we assess
policies in a fiscally responsible manner that does not
deprive crucial infrastructure and public works
projects of the necessary funding.
The Capital Project Sales Tax Act is an admirable
effort that would enable us to fund crucial
transportation infrastructure projects, which would
otherwise go unfunded if left to policymakers in
Columbia. These projects could be funded in a
manner that is economically responsible and that
does not place a disproportionately large burden upon
the residents of this county. The voters of Horry
County certainly deserve to decide the fate of the
Capital Project Sales Tax Act in a referendum in
November.
In addition, we must ensure that major projects, such
as the new airport terminal, that are being
contemplated are economically feasible and fiscally
responsible. But further, we must carefully consider
if this is a wise use of the taxpayers money in light of
other projects that could use funding.
Property tax relief is another issue that must be
considered carefully. The future of property tax
reform in Columbia remains uncertain. In the
absence of such reform at the state level, property tax
relief at the local level is likely to be a challenge for
the Council.
While such tax relief at the local level is an admirable
goal in the long-term, we must ensure that tax relief,
if instituted, will not have an adverse impact upon the
ability of Horry County to make the investments in
our infrastructure that will be necessary to
accommodate future growth in the area and in
projects that improve the quality of life of our
residents.
Substantial property tax relief would require the
County to raise revenues elsewhere through other
forms of taxation or fees, cut funding for capital
projects, or incur additional indebtedness. While the
County currently enjoys windfall revenues from
building fees associated with the extraordinary growth
in the area during the last few years, even small tax
relief would erode a substantial portion of that
surplus and could jeopardize the long-term projects
which will be funded from those windfall revenues.
Windfall profits or revenues are, by their very nature,
ephemeral and could fall precipitously or disappear
altogether in the event of a cooling in economic
activity in the area. This could leave projects that
may have already been started without further
funding, create a fiscal deficit for the County, and
force additional indebtedness or tax increases to pay
for necessary infrastructure projects and operations.
Property tax relief should be considered judiciously
and thoroughly reviewed and analyzed with respect to
the potential impacts of such action.
Beyond this, we must strive to improve the quality of life
of our citizens through involvement with the Economic
Development Corporation that will bring more diverse and
better jobs to the area. We must be vigilant in seeking to
protect private property rights, particularly in light of the Kelo
vs. City of New London ruling from the United States’ Supreme
Court last year.
While we have responded well to the many changes of
recent years, the challenges ahead are even more far reaching
and more difficult. And they too will require the efforts of the
Council, business leaders, and citizens working in cooperation
to ensure that the objectives outlined in the Comprehensive
Plan are met and that new objectives and initiatives are
developed for the benefit of all stakeholders in this county for
the future. I believe that we can effectively address the
challenges that lie ahead, and I believe that my financial and
economic background would be a valuable asset to the County
Council as we work to accomplish this. With diligence and
jurisprudence we can take the actions necessary to position
ourselves ahead of future growth rather than behind that
growth. I look forward to the working for the people of Horry
County in the future as we plan for and adjust to the
opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear here today.

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