Berkeley County’s loss would be Charleston County’s gain

Do you, Charleston County, take Daniel Island to be your lawfully annexed subdivision?

For better or for worse, during Family Circle Cup and the Race for a Cure, to tax and provide services for, ‘til secession do you part?

If Charleston County voters are smart, they will say “I do.”

Folks on Daniel Island are tired of being in Berkeley County, and this week they will talk with their lawyers about how to get out of what has become, unfortunately, a bad relationship.

It’s going to be a messy break-up, complicated by custody issues — mainly of public buildings. But it can be done.

And most likely it will be done, so long as Charleston County voters approve of this union.

This is not a simple spat over schools, as some people would have you believe. It’s a complex issue that’s been building for years. At this point, folks behind this effort to switch counties say they can’t find one reason they should stay in Berkeley County.

The bug plane

Look at this from Daniel Island’s point of view:

Every day they see Charleston County recycling trucks pass overhead on Interstate 526, yet their paper and plastic refuse isn’t on them.

They see the Charleston County mosquito abatement plane fly overhead — and shut off its sprayers as soon as it reaches the island.

They spend most of their money in Mount Pleasant, North Charleston and even Charleston, and none of their sales taxes roll back into their own community.

They don’t have the same privileges at county parks that other city of Charleston residents do.

If they have county business, they usually have to drive to Moncks Corner.

And don’t even mention the reassessment headache.

For all this, they are paying roughly 25 percent more in property taxes than folks who live right across the river.

And they’re fed up.

In Charleston County, they’d pay less and get more. Who can argue with their logic?

More than a school

Some people will tell you this is all about schools — mostly that Daniel Islanders don’t want their kids bused to Hanahan High School.

Yes, schools are a part of this. Daniel Islanders supported the recent sales tax referendum for Berkeley County schools, and thought they’d get another school on the island. But they never got that in writing and, fact is, Berkeley school officials say they don’t know where they will build the next school.

But most people think it’ll be on Clements Ferry Road.

The implication here is that Daniel Island is a bunch of rich folks who don’t want their kids going to school with the riffraff. And that makes them mad.

“I think it’s absolutely despicable — if the people who don’t support this play the race card,” says state Rep. Jim Merrill, a Daniel Island resident. “Nothing could be farther from the truth.”

The Daniel Island School is integrated; that’s one of the reasons it’s already overcrowded. Berkeley County kids come in from Cainhoy and Huger. Daniel Islanders don’t mind, but they need more space.

But they aren’t getting it — or too much else — from Berkeley County.

They’d like the opportunity to send their kids to Academic Magnet or the School of the Arts.

And they could do that more easily in Charleston County.

All they need is about 450 signatures on a petition to get this moving, and then a two-thirds vote for a referendum.

It can be done. And it probably will succeed on the issue of taxes alone.

Then they will need only the consent of Charleston County voters, which officials will encourage. They will have to endure a campaign against it from folks who don’t want to lose millions of dollars in Daniel Island taxes that Berkeley County gets right now.

It’s a shame for Berkeley County. It could lose 20 percent of its residential property tax base. Perhaps it should have done more to keep Daniel Island from straying.

Maybe it’s for the best. If the folks on Daniel Island are this passionate about secession, well, they probably belong in Charleston County.

After all, it’s where secession began.



Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com

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