Friday, March 7, 2014
If Daniel Island leaves Berkeley County, it would not necessarily leave the county’s school district, according to an opinion by the state’s top attorney.
Daniel Island began exploring the option of leaving Berkeley County and joining Charleston County last year after some residents said they wanted to lower their tax bill by leaving Berkeley County School District. Daniel Island is already part of the City of Charleston.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office released the Feb. 28 opinion to the Independent and The Gazette on Friday. Berkeley County lawmakers sought his opinion after the issue was first raised last year.
“Because a school district represents a separate body politic from a county, we believe the annexation of Daniel Island by Charleston County would not affect school attendance unless changes were made to BCSD’s boundaries,” South Carolina Assistant Attorney General Brendan McDonald wrote in the opinion.
The same goes for the millage rate enacted on property owners in the school district, according to the opinion.
That would mean that the roughly 5,000 Daniel Island residents annexed into Charleston County would pay the slightly higher county millage rate for government services, and continue paying the Berkeley County School District millage rate – what amounts to a tax hike instead of a tax decrease.
“We caution, however, that this is a novel issue and plausible legal arguments may be made that Daniel Island could, with annexation, become part of the (Charleston County School District),” McDonald wrote.
He continued that there is no precedent case for a county boundary changing and its effect on the school district.
As for residents spurring another grassroots effort to change the school district’s boundary, unlike county boundaries, school district boundaries cannot be brought before voters under current law, according to a county official.
The change in school district would have to come from the legislature.
Vocal opponent of the merger and Berkeley County Council’s Daniel Island Councilman Tim Callanan said he hopes the attorney general’s opinion gives pause to the residents.
“This (opinion) certainly will affect a lot of folks’ perception on the viability of whether its worthwhile pursuing the process,” Callanan said.