The Town of James Island levies a 20 mil property tax. The Town provides a 100% Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) credit against its property tax so that the Town's millage imposes no added burden on Town property taxpayers. Municipalities with no property tax millage may be subject to legal challenge regarding the receipt of monthly distributions by the South Carolina Treasurer from the LOST Property Tax Credit Fund. By levying a millage and providing a LOST credit, the Town is protected from legal challenge by remaining in full compliance with the South Carolina Code.
The James Island Public Service District (JIPSD) is independent of the Town. It provides fire protection, solid waste collection, and wastewater collection in the Town and the unincorporated area of James Island. To fund fire protection and solid waste collection, the JIPSD levies a property tax of 64.4 mils in the Town and the unincorporated area. The JIPSD Commissioners, elected at-large by the voters of the Town and the unincorporated area, are responsible for setting their millage. Other government entities collecting property tax in the Town include Charleston County and Charleston County Schools.
In 2019, the Town and JIPSD signed an historic cost sharing agreement. The Town is helping the JIPSD pay for fire protection and solid waste collection for our residents. In exchange, the JIPSD has agreed to allow the Town to provide an additional credit against the JIPSD property tax.
The new credit is provided on the October 2019 Charleston County Consolidated Property tax bill and will appear on vehicle property tax bills starting in January of 2020. The additional credit is $70 for every $100,000 of taxable appraised value (.0007.) For an average James Island home worth $250,000, the property tax saving is $175. For a Town homeowner, this is a 27% saving in the amount paid to the JIPSD and an overall 13.5% reduction in the property tax bill. For vehicles and commercial and rental property, the saving in the amount paid to the JIPSD is 18% and a 4.5% reduction in the overall property tax bill. For personal property, such as boats, the saving in the amount paid to the JIPSD is 10% with a 2.5% reduction in the overall property tax bill. These different percentages are due to assessment ratios provided in the South Carolina Constitution and other credits and reductions available to homeowners.
The amount of the credit depends on the amount of money Town Council appropriates each year to help pay for fire protection and solid waste collection. In 2019, Town Council appropriated $1 million. This is divided by the total appraised value of the taxable proprety in the Town. The credit for the property tax billed in October 2020 will be determined by Town Council as part of its annual budget process in the spring of 2020.
Because of the credit, property taxes for homeowners in the Town were 13.6% lower than homeowners in the City of Charleston and 13.5% lower than for homeowners in the unincorporated area of James Island.