City Council Starts Work on $72 Million Ocean City Budget

first_imgCity Hall in Ocean CityCity Council got an in-depth look Thursday at the $72,017,647 draft budget announced last week by Mayor Jay Gillian.Ocean City proposes an overall 1.32 percent tax rate increase, amounting to an additional $26.40 in municipal taxes for a home assessed at $500,000 in 2015.Ocean City Finance Director Frank Donato made a presentation on details of the proposed budget during a public workshop Feb. 19 at  City Hall.Among the largest appropriations are:Salaries and wages: $29,562,600, covering 258 full-time employees — two more than Ocean City employed in 2014. This figure represents a $914,000 increase over 2014, mostly due to scheduled increases within contracts.Debt service: $10.5 million, up $661,543 over 2014, to pay back loans for various capital improvement projects on roads, drainage, dredging, beaches, the boardwalk and other public facilities.Other expenses: $22,417,512 for various operating expenses, including $4,153,334 in pensions, an increase of  $349,652 due to the current employee base and the number of retirees in the system.For the first time since 2011, however, these costs will be offset by an increase in Ocean City’s ratable base — the total combined value of taxable real estate on the island.__________See complete presentation on appropriations and revenues.__________According to the draft budget, that figure has climbed 1.03 percent to $11.3 billion, which Donato largely attributed to stabilization in the real estate and construction markets as well as a recently completed in-house reassessment of 17,000 Ocean City properties.“It’s a great number,” Donato said.Because Ocean City has more real estate value to tax than other nearby municipalities and because it brings in substantial revenue from sources such as beach tag and parking fees, it is able to keep its municipal tax rate comparatively low.Ocean City will collect $45,894,838 from local taxpayers under the draft budget — $1,101,635 million, or 2.46, percent, more than it collected in 2014. Its general tax rate of 0.867 in 2014 was less than the general tax rates in neighboring Somers Point (2.7) and Upper Township (1.408), but greater than the general tax rates collected in coastal communities such as Sea Isle City (0.584) and Avalon (0.535), according to figures provided by the state.Other projected sources of revenue identified Thursday include:Local revenues: $15,364,830, reflecting — among other items — projected beach tag revenue of $4 million, parking fees of $2,785,000 and $1,035,000 from the Aquatic and Fitness Center, which exceeded expectations in 2014 by $23,472. “They just keep outdoing themselves from one year to the next,” Donato said.Library tax levy: $3,837,662, a $20,877 increase over what was collected in 2014. The library tax is set by state law and based on a small percentage of a town’s ratable base.In addition, Ocean City’s fund balance has reached an all-time high of $6,283,131, Donato said. Ocean City will contribute $3,350,000 of that amount to offset municipal taxes, while keeping the remaining 46.68 percent — or $2,933,131 — in reserves. Citing Ocean City’s vulnerability to big storms and dependency on tourism, Gillian said he agreed with the decision.“If we get a hurricane, or have a bad year with weather … you just don’t know,” Gillian added.Councilman Keith Hartzell praised the Mayor’s budget as “very lean” and “responsible,” as well as for its apparent transparency over previous administrations.“It’s important to be up front and honest for every item and every line that’s in this budget,” Gillian said.A final version of the budget will be voted on by City Council this spring.last_img read more