Daniel Island — William Goff just moved to Daniel Island, but soon he will have to vote on jumping from Berkeley to Charleston County.
So he attended an information meeting organized by Berkeley County officials Wednesday at Daniel Island School. He wanted to learn all he could about the advantages and disadvantages of making the jump.
“If there are any tax advantages,” he said, “I would be all for it, unless there are other strong disadvantages.”
He doesn’t have school-age children, he said, so schools are not a priority for him. But he plans to listen to his neighbors who are parents on school-related issues.
The Daniel Island Property Owners’ Association took the first step in getting Daniel Island annexed into Charleston County when it filed a petition with the Berkeley County Clerk of Court on Nov. 6, said Jane Baker, the association’s vice president of community services. Her group is managing the annexation process at the request of the Daniel Island Neighborhood Association.
The association gathered signatures from 14 percent, or 658, of the island’s 4,793 registered voters. The petition required signatures from only 10 percent of registered voters, Baker said.
The next steps in annexation are:
S.C. Governor Nikki Haley will receive a copy of the petition. She then has 30 days to appoint a commission of two Daniel Island residents and two Berkeley County residents to investigate the possibility of annexation.
The commission must present a written report to the governor. There is no deadline for the report.
The governor then will order an election by Daniel Island residents, which has to pass by a two-thirds vote.
Then a majority of Charleston County voters must vote for the annexation.
If the annexation fails to garner enough support, the issue cannot be brought up again for four years.
The annexation issue has been simmering on the island for a decade, but it was fueled by dissatisfaction over the recent Berkeley County school referendum.
Residents expressed worries they were not getting their money’s worth for their tax dollars. Last year’s $198 million school-improvement bond referendum, which island voters backed by a 70 percent to 30 percent margin, included money to build a new school to ease overcrowding at Daniel Island School, which houses students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Islanders grew concerned when they learned the school district was considering building the school off the island on Clements Ferry Road, taking away their children’s ability to walk to school.
Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis said he held the information session in response to the annexation petition, but also to give islanders information about local services and projects, especially the widening of Clements Ferry Road.
Davis said he hopes Daniel Island residents ultimately decide to remain in Berkeley County, but he has no immediate plans to do anything differently to keep them there.
But he wants to hear from residents. “If they have some concerns, we certainly want to know about it.”
Daniel Island’s 9,000 residents make up 4 percent of Berkeley County’s population but provide as much as 20 percent of the county’s tax base, according to county estimates.
Rindy Ryan has three elementary school-age children, so she was concerned about the schools.
But she thinks the Berkeley County School District’s latest plan will work. Under that plan, she said, a new high school and another school serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade would be built on Clements Ferry Road. The latter would draw students now attending the Daniel Island School who don’t live on Daniel Island. That would reduce the overcrowding at the Daniel Island School and allow island residents to attend their own school.
Now, Ryan is focused on what she thinks is the necessary widening of Clements Ferry Road.
County officials said construction on that project should begin in April 2015. It includes widening 3.6 miles of the road, from Interstate 526 to Jack Primus Road.
Baker said she thinks property owners ultimately will base their decision on whether to vote in favor of annexing into Charleston County primarily on three issues: property taxes, insurance rates and which Charleston County high school their children would be slated to attend.
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.