After seemingly never-ending negotiattions and worries about ferry service to and from Daufuskie Island, residents' willingness to tax themselves to get reliable, convenient service isn't all that surprising.
Beaufort County Council on Monday agreed to ask Daufuskie voters in November whether they want to increase their property taxes to pay for ferry service. The advisory referendum comes at the request of residents.
If the voters approve a special tax district, it would be up to County Council to create it and set the tax rate. Council was right to put the idea to a vote. It offers a revenue source that is in effect a user fee. The district, as proposed, wouldn't include Haig Point, which provides its own private ferry service.
The council also approved the latest contract for ferry service to the barrier island. The cost is $268,100 to subsidize fares. The county has budgeted $150,000 ($100,000 from the county and $50,000 from the state) and expects $21,000 in ticket sales. That leaves the county picking up another $97,100 for the fiscal year that ends next June.
The petition submitted to the county states that the maximum amount property owners would be charged is 16.5 mills. The petition also calls for creating a commission to advise the county about service and prepare a budget setting user service charges and property taxes to be collected.
The sales pitch to voters is that better ferry service would enhance economic development on the island and their property values.
In June, proponents estimated the district could bring in $500,000 a year for ferry operations. Aaron Crosby, chairman of the Daufuskie Island Council's ferry committee, said then that there were several ways the money could be spent, including a multi-stop service between Hilton Head Island, Daufuskie and Savannah with multiple round trips a day.
More money should increase their service options.
Because it's an advisory referendum, the decision on whether to move ahead will be up to County Council. But if Daufuskie voters say they want the tax district and it can provide a reliable source of income for ferry service, council members should go for it.