Confusion over tax code changes leads taxpayers to seek help with returns

In this September photo, a sign on a condo for sale encourages an offer. This year's tax season will look a lot like last year's, but with a few sweeteners added.

Sullivan's Island Town Council members must feel a little like the White Queen in "Alice in Wonderland," being asked to believe several impossible things before breakfast.

True, they're only being asked to do three impossible things relating to the new elementary school, but the leap is just as daunting.

As Prentiss Findlay reported, the council has received a petition from people who oppose the shape and scope of the planned elementary school.

It's the right of the residents of Sullivan's Island to petition for a referendum, but there's no way the council can do what they're asking for.

What's at stake

Here's what the petitioners want: a smaller school, on a different site, that houses fewer students.

The school can't be built any smaller, like the 30,000 square feet that the petitioners want. Charleston County School District officials have said they will not go smaller than 500 students because it's not cost-effective.

And it can't be built on a smaller footprint, unless they want it even taller.

As Councilman Jerry Kaynard points out, the school population, temporarily housed in Mount Pleasant, has 420 students as it is.

"It's similar to if we were going to build a highway and we built it to yesterday's standards," Kaynard said. "The public would be outraged that we built an obsolete road that has too much traffic."

To not try to plan effectively for population growth would be shortsighted.

Plus, Kaynard added: "How would a parent feel if their kid couldn't get into a school that's four blocks down the street?"

The petition also asks that the school plans be reviewed by the town's Design Review Board. But there are no zoning guidelines for school design, because the one school on the island was built before the town incorporated.

And finally, the petition asks the town to revoke the lease agreement that it signed with the district for the site of the new school, presumably to try to find another site. But if they do that, a previous lease agreement kicks in that provides the town even less input -- as in none -- into the design of the school.

Compromise needed

Yes, it's going to be tall. No, it's not a skyscraper. It has to be at least 7 feet off the ground because of the flood classification of the site. Town officials agreed to elevate it a few feet beyond that so that kids can have a safe recreation area that's slightly weather resistant under the building.

Yes, you will probably see something from the beach, probably rooftops through the trees. Those who think it will be a blight on the island should visit some of the other areas of the district where they would love to have a new school with updated facilities.

"The school does contain things like libraries, laboratories for computers, a visual arts center …," Kaynard said. "If you built a school without those kinds of facilities, you'd be roundly criticized."

So now all of this goes to a judge, and maybe there will be a public hearing where all the opponents can yet again have their say.

Hope it's worth it to them.

Reach Digital Editor Melanie Balog at mbalog@postandcourier.com or 937-5565.