By Jennifer Tuohy, Island Eye News Editor
While the crowds came for the coyotes, Sullivan’s Island’s Town Council had some other important business on its plate during the January 21 meeting: voting on a $4.1 million general obligation bond.
The bond will finance the building of the new town hall and police station, the purchase of a new ladder truck for the fire department and improvements to the town park. There will also be an option to use the money for improvements to the town’s sewer system.
A general obligation bond is a common type of municipal bond, secured by a state or local government’s pledge to use legally available resources, including tax revenues, to repay bond holders.
“There will be a separate line item on your property tax specifically for this bond,” Perkis said during the meeting. “Why do we have to do property tax? Our financial situation, while it’s strong, is different from neighboring communities. We don’t have as strong a hospitality tax; surrounding communities get more than double ours. The accommodations tax here is about $50,000 a year. Folly Beach collects $1 million, Isle of Palms about $2.3 million. That gives them a revenue stream quite different from Sullivan’s Island.
“That’s a quality of life issue,” Perkis continued. “We put a moratorium on rentals. There were 90, it’s down to 60. We put a moratorium on bars and restaurants. I think most of our residents, about 98 percent, would say ‘I’d rather have an increase in property tax than more accommodations tax revenue.’ We’re looking at about 2 mils, which, for the average household, would be about $120 a year.”
The length of the bond is 12 years. For the first two years the town will pay interest only. However, an annual call option has been included, allowing the town to pay off the loan in part or in full once a year with no penalty. This would occur should the town sell any of the properties it currently has on the market.
Those properties include two vacant lots on Raven Drive between stations 26 and 26 1/2, and one vacant lot across from 1609 Middle Street. The town offered those for sale under sealed bid late last year. According to town administrator Andy Benke the town was not satisfied with the bids. The properties were taken off the market with the intention of putting them back up for sale in the next few weeks. The town is currently seeking a real estate agent/broker to assist with this process.
“If anyone thinks we are rushing through on this [the bond], they’re right,” Perkis said. “The historically low interest rates are ticking up. We’ll pay $40,000 less if we get what we are planning on right now.”
The ordinance was put to a vote and passed 6-1. Council member Hartley Cooper cast the dissenting vote. Benke said the bond was scheduled to go out to the financial institutions for bid on January 28, and the lowest bidder will be selected on February 3.
Other items of note from the January Council meeting
Franchise fees for filming
The second reading of a motion to increase fees for videotaping and still photography on the island was deferred again, due to continuing discussions with the Carolina Film Alliance.
Sullivan’s Island Elementary School
The “topping off” ceremony for the school will be held February 22 at 10 a.m.
The Water & Sewer department reported it received about 50 calls for burst pipes during the freeze earlier in the month. Citizens were advised there is more cold weather on the way and issued the following advice:
Allow a couple of faucets to run slightly before going to bed
Insulate all exposed pipes and enclose crawl spaces
Plug up drafty cracks, and repair broken window panes
Remove hoses from outside faucets, and be sure they are drained and shut off
Know how and where to turn off your water in case of an emergency
Take these precautions if you go out of town during freezing weather:
Turn off your water at your main valve, at the house or located near the meter
Turn off your hot water heater at the electric breaker panel
Open a couple of faucets in the house to allow water sitting in the pipes to expand if the outside temperature is freezing
Council went into Executive Session to receive legal advice pertaining to a zoning ordinance regarding vacation rentals. No vote by Council or action occurred in the Executive Session.