Post and Courier columnist Brian Hicks writes that by forming a town, the people of James Island will make everyone else pay higher taxes.
The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office has always provided law enforcement in the unincorporated area of James Island. Should the voters choose to incorporate on April 24, the expense for the Sheriff’s Office will remain exactly the same.
There will be no need the Charleston County taxpayers or anyone else to spend more.
Everyone in Charleston County pays an extra penny “local option” sales tax. Most of it is used to reduce property taxes. Some of the money goes to Charleston County and provides a property tax credit to everyone in the county, but some is divided among the municipalities, and used by them to reduce municipal property taxes.
Sales tax paid by the people in the unincorporated area of James Island is used to reduce the property tax of the people living in the City of Charleston and other municipalities.
Most people on James Island believe that the sales tax we pay should be used to reduce our property taxes. James Islanders pay property tax to the James Island Public Service District to provide for fire protection, and garbage and trash pickup.
Since the approximately 11,000 people in the proposed Town of James Island will only receive about $1 million in local option sales tax, this will have only a tiny effect on the City of Charleston’s $150 million budget, or over $50 million in property tax collections.
It is, however, significant relative to the $6 million budget of the James Island P.S.D.
If the Town of James Island rejected the advice of our sheriff and instead listened to Mayor Joe Riley and set up yet another police force in the area, this would not allow the City of Charleston to continue to take the sales tax paid by the people forming the town. Further, the people of James Island would not pay more property tax than they do now. Unfortunately, it would be impossible to use the local option sales tax monies to provide tax credits.
As for Charleston County, its total budget is $368 million and the sheriff’s expense is $79 million.
Does anyone really believe that an independent Town of James Island police force would result in significant savings and lower property taxes for Charleston County?
As for state aid to subdivision, which was mentioned by Hicks, the impact of a Town of James Island on the state budget and how much is received by all of the other counties and cities across South Carolina is truly miniscule.
Most everyone understands that forming a town makes sense for the people of James Island and will have no significant impact on the rest of the state or county.
Unfortunately, Mayor Riley wants to keep James Island unincorporated so that he can continue to annex high value properties. The base city millage of 78 is 48 percent higher than the James Island P.S.D. millage of 54.
As long as the local option sales tax only goes to those who annex to the city, Mayor Riley can continue to claim that city property taxes are “competitive,” even though they are higher.
Sadly, Mayor Riley appears more interested in making the people of James Island pay higher property taxes than in any realistic assessment of the financial impact of the town.
I am open to consolidation of law enforcement and other basic public services. Still, I favor having many independent cities and towns, each competing for residents by providing a desirable mix of taxes and public services.
The way for local government to avoid waste and duplication is contracting with the private sector and other local governments rather than trying produce everything “in house.”
BILL WOOLSEY Free James Island Mooring Drive James Island (Mr. Woolsey was mayor of the former Town of James Island from 2010-11)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to an editing error, previous versions of this letter contained a mistake. The sentence should have read: “As for Charleston County, its total budget is $368 million and the sheriff’s expense is $79 million.” The Post and Courier regrets the error.