1. Does the Town of James Island have a property tax?
The Town of James Island currently has a millage of 17.9. The Town provides a Local Option Sales Tax credit equal to the gross amount of property tax that would be owed by each taxpayer to the Town, so property taxpayers owe no net property tax to the Town. Municipalities with no property tax millage may be subject to legal challenge regarding the receipt of revenue from the Local Option Sales Tax Property Tax Credit Fund. By collecting a millage, the Town of James Island complies with the South Carolina's LOST statute and protects needed revenue from potential legal challenge.
2. Do Town property owners pay any property tax?
Town property owners pay property tax to Charleston County, Charleston County Schools, the James Island Public Service District, and the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission. The property taxes for all of these agencies are included on the consolidated property tax bill issued by the Charleston County Auditor. Property taxpayers pay all of these taxes to the Charleston County Treasurer, who distributes the funds to these different agencies. The Town receives no distribution of property tax revenue. The Town funds its operations through business licenses, sales taxes, and franchise fees.
3. What is the Cost Share Credit Agreement with the James Island Public Service District?
The Town provides a credit against the property tax collected by the James Island Public Service District. The JIPSD provides fire protection, solid waste collection and waste water collection in the Town and in the unincorporated area of James Island. This independent government agency collects a property tax to pay for fire protection and solid waste collection. In 2019, the Town and JIPSD adopted a cost share agreement. The Town pays part of the cost of fire protection and solid waste collection for its residents in exchange for a credit against the property tax the JIPSD collects from Town property taxpayers.
4. How much does the Cost Share agreement reduce property taxes for Town homeowners?
The tax saving for Town property taxpayers depends on how much Town Council appropriates each year to help pay for fire protection and solid waste collection in the Town. In 2021, Town Council approved $1,068,000 to help pay for fire service and solid waste collection for Town residents. This resulted in a property tax credit reducing JIPSD property taxes by $55 for every $100,000 in appraised property value. For a typical James Island home appraised at $300,000, the credit is $165, resulting in a 24% reduction in the property tax paid by Town homeowners to the JIPSD and an approximate 12% reduction in the total bill.
5. Property Tax Rollback of 2020.
The Town first levied a property tax in 2015 of 20 mils. This same millage was adopted in each subsequent budget through 2020. Each year, the Town provided an equal LOST property tax credit, so Town property owners paid no net property tax to the Town. In 2020, Charleston County reassessed all taxable property as required by the South Carolina Constitution. The result was an increase in the total assessed value of all taxable property in the Town. The South Carolina Code requires a roll back of the millage so that the Town collects the same amount of property tax revenue. The new millage, which was included on the property tax bills issued in October 2020, was 17.9. This property tax millage was retained in the 2021 annual budget. Because the Town has continued to provide a LOST credit equal to the amount of property tax owed, the amount paid by each property taxpayer to the Town remained zero. In the year of reassessment, like in any year, the South Carolina Code allows Town Council to increase the millage any amount less than or equal to the rate of inflation plus the rate of population growth. Town Council has not approved a millage increase.
6. How does the James Island Public Service District use the Cost Share monies provided by the Town?
The Town pays the James Island Public Service District to help finance fire protection and solid waste collection. In 2021, the payments were $89,000 per month. The District puts the cost share funds it receives from the Town in its annual operating budget which funds fire protection and solid waste collection in the entire District, which includes the Town and the unincorporated area of James Island. As a public agency, the District's budget and annual audits are available for inspection and included on its website at JIPSD.org. The cost share tax credits reduce the amount Town property taxpayers pay the District and so the amount of property tax revenues received by the District. The payments made by the Town to the District add up to an amount equal to the total of the credits provided to Town taxpayers and so exactly compensate the District for the loss of property tax revenue. The cost share monies paid by the Town are used to pay for what would have been funded by taxes the District does not collect from Town taxpayers due to the credits. The District budget is approved by the James Island Public Service District Commissioners, who are elected by voters in the Town and the unincorporated area of James Island.