October 9, 2020
Dear Sea Pines residents,
Our continued thanks to the property owners who have contacted CSA Staff and Board members with feedback regarding the proposal for the creation of a Sea Pines Special Tax District.
I would like to address two questions that a number of you have understandably posed.
First, some of you have asked why the Board is not pursuing a simple referendum on which all property owners may vote. A handful of ideas for a proposed referendum have also circulated on social media, including the resurrection of the so-called “unity referendum” first suggested in 2019.
The answer is relatively a straightforward one. The Sea Pines Resort is not prepared to increase its assessment at this time, nor will it make additional financial concessions like those proposed in the unity referendum. The Resort would, however, approve a referendum increasing only the residential and commercial property owners’ assessments, but the CSA Board does not believe this limited proposal has any reasonable chance of success. The costs and delays associated with a failed referendum would delay the influx of new revenue too far into the future.
While the Resort agreed to raise its contribution level in the 2019 referendum, the proposal was rejected by a small yet vocal minority of residential property owners. This time around, the CSA Board negotiated for months for similar terms, yet we cannot hold the Resort to those previous offers. We recognize much has changed since last year and the Resort’s priorities have shifted; however, CSA’s have not, and we must continue working to secure a revenue source for our community.
Second, some have asked why the Board believes an ad valorem tax is the most equitable option when non-residents will pay 50% more than residents on a property of the same value. We recognize this distinction, which is the result of state tax laws that cannot be avoided. The reason we believe the ad valorem method is the most equitable option is because it imposes a significant assessment on the Resort and commercial partners based on property values, which will continue to increase as they improve and expand their facilities in Sea Pines. The alternative – imposing a flat fee on each property – would have resulted in the Resort and commercial partners paying the same amount on their various parcels as homeowners. Additionally, a flat fee would result in homeowners of condos and small homes paying the same as much larger homes, which many have criticized as inequitable. Let’s face it – virtually every tax we pay to other jurisdictions for infrastructure is assessed on an ad valorem basis. The Board had to decide which approach would be most equitable and decided that having the Resort and commercial partners pay a reasonable amount is the best choice for the future of Sea Pines.
There is still much work to be done – the process of creating a Special Tax District is a marathon, not a sprint. There are many details to be determined, and we promise to continue sharing information as it becomes available and to take your feedback into account along the way. We are updating weekly a list of frequently asked questions and answers at seapinesliving.com/specialtaxdistrict. If your question is not answered or to share additional feedback, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I urge you to pay close attention to the facts, and detailed information as we are able to provide you over the coming weeks, and to seek whole and accurate information before coming to a final conclusion.
Thank you for your patience,
CSA Board Chairman