Property tax bills are expected to rise 13 percent in the town of James Island this year, with three more tax hikes planned through 2022.
Taxes would also rise in unincorporated areas served by the James Island Public Service District.
For the owner of a $350,000 home, this year's planned tax increase would add $105 to a property tax bill. For business and rental properties worth the same amount, the tax increase would be more than $150.
The planned tax increases are coming not from the town government, but from the James Island Public Service District, which provides fire protection, garbage collection and wastewater services to residents.
“I did a lot of soul-searching about it," said JIPSD Commissioner Donald Hollingsworth, who was among the majority that gave initial approval to the tax increase.
A final vote awaits at a June 25 meeting.
Hollingsworth said the district needs more revenue in order to replace a fire station, increase salaries, and shore up cash reserves. Local governments in coastal South Carolina typically maintain large reserve funds in case of hurricanes and other emergencies.
“The biggest thing is the salary compensation study we did, to make sure we stay competitive," Hollingsworth said. "We also need to build a new fire station."
The JIPSD's budget anticipates additional property tax increases in 2019, 2020 and 2022.
"If no one shows up (at the JIPSD's June 25 public hearing), the majority of commissioners will get the message that taxpayers of James Island just don't care and they can hike taxes however they want," Woolsey wrote.
The three commissioners who joined Hollingsworth in voting for the tax increase — Cubby Wilder, Kay Kernodle and Eugene Platt — could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Hollingsworth suggested Woolsey's criticism is unfair, considering the town previously raised its own property tax. Woolsey said that's not fair criticism, because credits from the local option sales tax result in residents paying no property tax to the town.
“The PSD provides essential services to the town, as well as the unincorporated area, so I can understand their need for funds," Woolsey said. “I think that the (proposed) increase in taxes is too much."
Woolsey's wife, Kathy Woolsey, is a JIPSD commissioner, and voted against the tax increase.
If the series of tax increases anticipated by the public service district come to fruition, town of James Island residents could end up with a higher tax rate than their neighbors who are City of Charleston residents.
Parts of James Island are in the town, parts are in the city, and a small portion remains unincorporated.