The new Chair of the James Island Public Service District, June Waring, signed an article in the District’s newsletter responding to the Town’s May proposal for tax relief. I wrote the Commissioners sharing a proposal to allow the JIPSD to lower their taxes significantly rather than increase them by nearly 4%. The proposal was for the JIPSD to transfer service rights for solid waste collection to the Town, and for the Town to pay the JIPSD to continue to pick up garbage and solid waste in the Town by contract. I later offered to negotiate on the basis of keeping two day a week service in the Town. My proposal included a Town property tax millage. Since the Town is legally required to provide a tax credit against its own millage, the burden on Town taxpayers would have been significantly reduced.
When the JIPSD passed a budget with no tax reduction in June, the Town moved forward with an alternative plan. It is now well past the deadline to make changes in the 2015 tax bill. At this time, I am not asking the JIPSD to negotiate anything.
The Town has introduced a millage and is providing the required tax credit. The Town has no need to pay the JIPSD for solid waste service since they will collect increased property taxes in the Town to pay that cost. The Town is using the revenue instead to pay for a new Town Hall by lease purchase agreement. The Town’s is providing a large enough tax credit so that no one will have to pay any property tax to the Town.
None of the criticisms in the JIPSD newsletter have merit. Both the South Carolina Constitution and Code make provision for a special purpose district like the JIPSD to collect reduced property tax in a municipality like the Town if there is a difference in the services being funded by the tax. Further, the Constitution and the Code also provide for a special purpose district to provide services by contract to a municipality.
The Town has always been willing to pay a fair share of the cost of JIPSD services. Contrary to claims in the JIPSD newsletter, there would be no increase in costs or tax burden on those in the unincorporated area of the JIPSD. Nearly all were in the Town before 2011, and after the Town is reunited, they will all be in the Town again. I would never propose or agree to a plan that would be unfair to our former and future citizens.
The JIPSD Commissioners need to be reminded that they are not the owners of a private corporation but are elected officials accountable to the voters. There are less than 14,000 registered voters in the JIPSD and more 9,000 of them are citizens of the Town. Sadly, the JIPSD newsletter threatens to take away the right of citizens in the Town to vote for JIPSD Commissioner while continuing to have the Town pay for services. Further, it proposes that the JIPSD have the Town pay for solid waste collection services without picking up any garbage or trash in the Town. I will never accept such an injustice. And I doubt that the nearly 2/3 of JIPSD voters who reside in the Town will do so either.
In my view, tax relief will have to wait until there is a majority of JIPSD Commissioners who are willing to cooperate with the Town. Until that time, there is nothing to discuss.
Mayor Bill Woolsey