Just keep saying no to relentless Joe
I swore I would never say it ... but ... Just Say No to Joe!
Mayor Riley has blanketed the Town of James Island with letters asking people to annex into the City of Charleston.
I urge town residents to please be patient and carefully consider their options.
The town is still open for business. We are submitting a petition for a rehearing soon. We expect to continue to operate for several months before the state Supreme Court renders a final decision.
We are making plans for a fourth incorporation. Unlike the past, when we had to wait for new legislation, we expect at most a short pause in town operations. If we must close down for a time, the James Island Public Service District will continue to provide fire protection and trash and garbage pickup as usual. Sheriff Cannon will continue to provide law enforcement. Building Services, Planning and Zoning, Code Enforcement, and Public Works may shift over to Charleston County for a time until the town is ready to resume those responsibilities.
Some months ago, I appeared before Charleston City Council and asked that they drop their suit against the town. No vote was taken, but we believe we were only short one vote. A "maybe" turned into a "yes." But a "yes" turned into a "maybe" the day before, and then, at the time of the meeting, it turned into a "no."
I am repeating this story because Mayor Riley gave an angry speech at that meeting in which he claimed that the people of the Town of James Island don't pay their fair share. He said that we use hospitals, universities, ballparks in the City of Charleston. (Of course, when I go to the hospital, I get a big bill. When my son went to The Citadel, I had to pay tuition. And I had to buy tickets the last time I went to a baseball game at "The Joe.")
Mayor Riley, however, believes we should pay higher taxes to support the City of Charleston. I don't agree. But my point is that promises of tax savings for people who annex into the city should be taken with a large grain of salt.
Everyone in the town knows that we pay taxes to the James Island PSD. Our rates are 57.5 mils, which is $228 for a $100,000 home. The City of Charleston charges 79.1 mils. That is 37 percent more, or $316.
Now, the people in the Town of James Island, like everyone else in Charleston County, pay the local option sales tax. That money is divided up in various ways, but part of it is returned to municipalities for a property tax credit. The credit appears on City of Charleston tax bills, and reduces the amount paid. The town has been providing the credit by mailing out tax rebate checks each year.
I have been working with the Charleston County Auditor's Office (which collects taxes) and the James Island PSD, to arrange for the tax credit to appear on our bills as well, and reduce the amount paid. Sending out checks is expensive and an administrative nightmare.
When Mayor Riley compares property taxes, he compares what city residents pay to what citizens of the town pay -- ignoring the rebate checks. And, of course, if the town remains closed, there will be no tax credit. Public service districts, like the James Island PSD are not eligible for the local option sales tax rebate.
Tax credits for next year will be reduced if the town is closed for a time. Still, if you stay with the town and the people support reincorporation, property taxes in the town will be lower.Most residents of the town know that our twice a week garbage pickup is better than the City of Charleston. And the James Island PSD is much better at taking care of yard debris. While it is true that the City of Charleston charges people in the Town of James Island more for water than city residents, the James Island PSD charges much less for sewer. Sheriff Al Cannon does a good job with law enforcement, and the town has been paying to provide extra law enforcement to focus on trouble spots.
Our staff, now led by town Administrator Hal Mason, has risen to a new standard of professional service. We are working with Charleston County and the state Department of Transportation.
And we are ready to work with the City of Charleston. I have been trying to avoid a combative approach with the City of Charleston and Mayor Joe Riley.
But … Just Say No to Joe!
Bill Woolsey is mayor of the Town of James Island.