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IOP Ways and Means Agenda, May 19, 2020, 6 pm

May 16, 2020

The Isle of Palms was incorporated in 1953 by an act of the South Carolina Legislature. My parents moved here in 1959 after hearing about it from a shipmate of my father’s while in the Navy. He heard it was a utopic place to raise a family. In 1959, we had about 300 residents. Today, we have about 5,000 residents which quadruples in the summer due to vacation renters plus the thousands of day visitors, many changes have occurred over the last 67 years. While the island is basically built out, it is always changing, older houses going down, larger new ones being built. But to me, it is still a utopia, the place that will always be my home. People move here because they like what they see, the lifestyles, and low taxes. However, just this past year, we have had newcomers wanting to change the way we have done things over the last 67 years, because they know better. Our taxes are low because of non owner occupied homes and vacation rentals. Because of this unprecedented pandemic, the Covid-19 virus, we have lost revenue. However, we have weathered many storms over our 67 years of existence, hurricanes and recessions, yet here we are today, still the Isle of Palms. Just this year, we had committee assignment challenges that we never have had in our 67 years of history, now we have some wanting to change the number of council members, to save money. We do have a tight budget, we do have major projects that need to be done, a poorly built public safety building that cost 6.5 million to build, and 12 years later, costing somewhere between 5 and 6 million to repair. We have to rebuild the marina docks because of a horrible lease extension that lasts till 2045, and requires the city to pay for the cost of the docks that will cost the city around 3 million. We have sea level rise which is only increasing our flooding problems. We are now looking at our Phase III drainage project which entails building 3 drainage outfalls at 41st Ave, 36th Ave and 30th Ave. They will have flapper valves that prevent water intrusion and only let water flow out. This cost, 2.9 million. However, the drainage problem is much larger than just those 3 spots, we have to do the whole island. That alone could cost tens of millions. We have over 1300 homes with septic tanks, the estimate for sewering the island is around 45 million, not on our priority list right now. Other costly issues, cost of living increases for our personnel, they can’t afford to live out here, but have to travel daily to get here through all the traffic, not to mention, being courted by surrounding communities offering more money and less driving distances. (Please thank our city personnel every time you see them for a job well done) We have a beach that will always have to be re-nourished every 8-10 years, we have city assets that we need to maintain. This is the part that hurts, we will be seeing a tax increase sometime soon, we have to. Cutting two council positions is not the solution to our budget, we need diversity on council. We are raising parking fees shortly. Next year, we will see all day visitors paying for parking. This far offsets two council seats. We need to maintain those with history on the island to help those who recently moved here to better understand how the Isle of Palms became as great a place to live as it is. Is a tax increase bad, hell no, in fact, I currently pay $5,500 on my house, of which, the Isle of Palms gets just under $1,200. That means that I get police, fire, sanitation, recreation and a city staff for less than $100 a month. Yes, it is well past time to raise taxes. Even with a tax increase, we will still be the lowest in the area. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your mayor.

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