Logic Behind Room Tax Plan Explained
I feel compelled to respond to recent letters regarding the high cost of vacationing in Ocean City. While it is quite easy to get caught up in the mindset that Ocean City’s prices are driving tourists away, there are a few very important things to keep in mind.
Operating a business in today’s economy takes a skilled mathematician. The astronomical increases in energy, insurance and assessments are hurting all of us. Unfortunately, commercial businesses do not have the pleasure of a 3-percent tax cap which homeowners are entitled to through the Homestead Tax credit. It is never an owner’s goal to price themselves out of the market, it is simply to operate a budget that generates a net profit. This has driven hotel rates all over the country to average between $100-200 per night. And, most of these are places that do not rely on tourism as their industry. During our regular checks on rates throughout the East Coast and in our own business travel experience, $150/night seems to be the norm in places that have none of OC’s amenities.
Yes, there are rooms that are more than $200 per night in high season; however, there are plenty of rooms that are less than $200 per night during the same time. Unfortunately, those properties with less expensive rooms do not have advertising budgets or the staff to properly promote their offerings. Therefore, the advertised rooms are the ones the public is seeing. That said; $200 is not at all out of line for a night during prime time in Ocean City.
Our non-profit association begged the Town of Ocean City to increase the stagnant advertising budget to no avail, and a slight increase in the room tax was the only way to raise the funds necessary to promote the fact that there are a variety of lodging, dining and attractions for all price points in our great city.
Our association is actively trying to pull together the entire business community to develop itineraries, special deals and more reasons for people to visit. We understand that hospitality is the economy and that when tourism flourishes, everyone benefits. We are all in this boat together. Fewer visitors equal less tax revenue collection, which would lead to charges for basic services such as trash pick-up, transportation etc. Simply put our infrastructure would suffer.
The proposed room tax is a half-percent increase, which will bring the total to 9.5 percent (5 percent state plus 4 ½ percent county). This is less than the average room tax across the country, which is 12 percent. On a $200 per night room, for an average three-night stay, the increase equates to an extra $1 a day for the visit. This is a well thought out plan that we believe will enable all of us to continue to enjoy the Ocean City so many have come to love.
Susan L. Jones
(The writer is the director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association.)
Insight On City’s Surveying Effort
After reading both the article authored by Ali Baker and the "Between The Lines" segment by Publisher/Editor Steve Green this past Friday on the Baltimore Ave surveying effort, I wanted to provide a little more insight to the topic.
I have been monitoring the redevelopment of the entire Baltimore Ave. corridor from the Inlet to 15th Street over the last 15 years. Whenever a site plan was submitted for review, regardless of whether it was large enough to demand the attention of the Planning Commission, I always wanted to review it. I wanted to see that the designer/engineer/architect had denoted the actual location of the platted right of way line on the drawings, in comparison to what the landowner actually had a deed to, and I wanted to see what, if anything, they were proposing to place within the right of way for their new project. In most cases, the requests were something as simple as an advertising sign or some sort of non-required landscaping. If the sign was to be approved in the desired location, the permit was issued with a stipulation that the landowner must remove the sign at a later date, at their expense, if the Mayor and City Council requested them to do so and the landowner was required to provide a liability insurance policy on the sign for as long as it existed. Beyond those simple improvements, nothing was permitted.
Over the years that I have been tracking this issue, numerous properties were redeveloped inclusive of, but not limited to, locations such as the old Tides Inn at 1st Street which is now the Haven Motel, the Beachwear Outlet at 2nd St., Park Place Motel at 2nd/3rd streets, the old Monticello Motel now Monte Carlo Hotel, the Tidelands Caribbean at 4th/5th streets, the Comfort Inn at 5th St., the South Beach Condo at 7th/Surf Ave, etc, and numerous others as you march your way up the corridor up to as far as the Commander at 14th Street.
In recent years the desires/requests by developers for use of any portion of the unimproved platted right of way have become more drastic. In one case, we even had a developer/landowner who tried to claim the square footage of land within this area for their own density calculations and thus a greater development of units. So, in one sense, it was actions of the public, not the government, that have driven me to have the entire platted right of way surveyed. It is simply our intention to field document the exact location of the right of way lines, to document all encroachments that project into the right of way, and to then use this mapping to assess the current field conditions. This document will then act as the foundation of information should the town chose to pursue issues such as widening of sidewalks, creation of a bike lane, and the placement of transformers/pedestals away from direct view of traveling motorists when we finally do under ground the utilities from North Division to 15th Street.
For the most vivid picture of where the unimproved portion of this platted right of way exists, I would ask you to view the new South Beach Condominium located along the east side of Baltimore Ave between 7th Street and Surf Ave. This project’s parking garage is set back east of the improved portion of Baltimore Ave. by nearly 30 feet. This entire area is beautifully landscaped and provides a very attractive openness. Nearly all of this area is part of the platted right of way, not the condominium’s property. Imagine what the overall corridor will look like if we were ever to reach a day when it all had a similar buffer?
In closing, sure some might think the survey would open the door for installation of a dedicated transit lane and thus the widening of the paved surface of Baltimore Ave. but I would not rush to that conclusion at this time. Creation of a dedicated lane from North Division to 15th streets will add very little to the maneuverability of the fleet exiting from "South" Division Street, when in fact the far majority of Baltimore Ave. south of North Division Street is already correctly built to the right of way line (you will recall we totally redeveloped that portion of the road in 1991 with what was our first "under grounding of utilities" project) and thus construction of an additional dedicated transit lane in that area would not be feasible. Additionally, the northbound transit fleet increases its ability to travel unimpeded as the traffic congestion eases where motorists divert off Baltimore Ave. at 1st Street and then 9th Street, over to Philadelphia Ave. I hope this information provides a little more insight relative to the road we are heading down.
Hal O. Adkins
(The writer is the town’s Public Works Director.)
Way Back Machine
Publisher/Editor Steve Green’s “Between The Lines” column regarding the debate over high school graduation testing requirements put me in the old Way Back Machine, especially the part where you stated, “Although some students have reportedly not taken the tests yet, there’s reason to be concerned because some students are simply not good test takers and will struggle when so much is on the line”.
I am 64 years old and as the old Way Back Machine jettisoned me back in time, I remember quite well the fear, and, stress, that had overtaken me before, during, and after those “big” tests. I can remember staring at the test paper which seemed like hours with my heart pounding like a kettle drum. As I made an attempt to try to write my name and homeroom number at the upper right hand corner of the test paper, as instructed, my pencil point broke. Even though I did study very hard, the process to complete the test in the time required, was usually agonizing and futile. Very seldom did I ever get through without taking a wild guess at the end questions.
Yes I was one of the “not good test takers”. Some how I did get through this high school hell, to go on to take a multitude of mid-term and final exams to graduate from college. Thank you for your kind words about us poor test takers.
County A Little Late
Worcester County officials are seeking to find ways to improve the depressing water quality of Assawoman Bay. Where were these officials when the largest contiguous area of forested land was destroyed on its shores? That priceless piece of Mother Nature was axed for the currently foundering Riddle Farm development.
While I’m glad these officials recognize they’d better take better care of Asswoman Bay because it’s a big part of our tourism cash cow, the sad news is that they let the horse out of the barn to begin with.
Rob Harmony Carr
Make Open Space A Budget Priority
Ever since 1969, Maryland’s Program Open Space (POS) has been pooling the funds generated by the transfer/recordation taxes on land sales for the preservation and development of open space. In fact – you probably don’t even know it – but if you’ve ever bought or sold a house or piece of property, you actually have already helped to pay for parks that wouldn’t exist without these funds. In Ocean City, facilities such as the Northside Park Recreation Complex expansion, the Northside Park Lagoon bridge, and the playgrounds at Little Salisbury Park, 4th Street, and Northside Park all were partially funded through POS dollars.
However, as has been widely reported, the State of Maryland is currently facing a $1.7 billion budget deficit. Unfortunately, all too often when the state is hurting financially, funds are diverted from POS to help fill General Fund budget gaps. As our elected leaders gather in Annapolis for the Special Session, it is vital for citizens to urge that a diversion of this type not take place once again. The risk of this happening as part of next year’s budget process is very real; therefore, now is the time for us to speak up in support of the preservation of open space. Contact your state elected officials and tell them to fully fund Program Open Space, for us and for future generations of Marylanders.
(The writer is a member of the Legislative Committee for the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association.)
Taxes Too High
As non resident property owners, our taxes are already to high, next year we will pay real estate tax on 135,000 more than the last unit in our complex was sold for.
It is time for government to run their business like those of us who run our own business. If you don’t have the income, then don’t spend the money. If salaries have to be frozen then so be it. If employees have to be laid off so be it. If projects have to be cut, okay. Way too much money is spent for many things not necessary to the average taxpayer. Our taxes go up, our services go down. The taxpayers in Maryland and non resident owners are soon going to run out of money to fund the runaway spending in Maryland then where are you going to be. It is time to slow down, look around and figure out just what the money is being spent for and why is it needed. Increased taxes on everything under the sun and the addition of slots, may pull the state out of its current problems, but that is a short-term fix for a long-term problem. Way too much government spending.
Topics Of The Day
There are many topics of great importance both for our town of Ocean City along with our country. I write to touch on some of these:
Based on the picture in The Daily Times yesterday, Wednesday, Oct. 24 a businessman was screaming about no slots. Again in my opinion, and I’d wager to say, in the opinions of thousands of others, he is one of many narrow-minded individuals. In case he, at what appears to be an elder age, is not aware that gambling has been around for many moons, is here now and will be a way of life long after he and I are gone. Did the people of Maryland rebel against all the lotto, scratch off, mega gambling ventures? Obviously not. So, if he and his followers are so vehement about slot machines and other gaming devices, why not come out in opposition to these daily methods to get money from us? Further, I think it’s fair to draw an analogy to alcohol. For example, do slots lure people to drive and kill others similar to those who drink and drive, killing and maiming? If yes is an answer, I’d like to hear about some research in this area. As a crusader, I think he should voice an opinion against entirely too many outlets selling/dispensing booze. Oh no, this is a social happening.
Another point concerning my approach to slot machines can be related to a trip to the Delaware State Fair this year. I walked into the casino of my own volition. I did not see one person being yanked or pulled or coaxed into going inside to play. By the way, for almost two hours, on a nickel machine, a big spender, I lost $6. It was an enjoyable way to kill some time at the fair.
In addition, let’s put these slots in numerous locations other than a race track. Why should we lose money from gamblers to Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia?
And voters, you’d better begin to pay attention, and act in response to what your local politicians are doing to you week in and week out. They, like the Congress of the US, your demonic president and Cheney, are usurping their powers without doing your bidding, which is why you voted for them in the first place. I’m telling you what are facts and we are already losing OC and the USA to these power hungry monsters. Term limits are the answer. You’ve got to get rid of people like Rick Meehan (the mayor) and several others on the council who think they are indispensible. The US government is loaded with these hangar "on-ers." Vote them out. Get busy. It’s our lives that are being abused. Your president and many in Congress are in favor of fighting and seeing thousands of our troops die and become wounded for life. Lies are all you hear to justify the politicians whims. It’s sad, sad, sad. Wake up.
Did the contractors and designers of the Rivendell plan that extra five feet on the building figuring your council would not disallow it? Wanna bet? Didn’t you elect them to act on your behalf?
How about taxes, friends. This governor can empty our pockets in a hurry – sales tax increase for one. And OC businesses getting an increase in room rent tax. Maybe this figure should go from 4.5 percent to 6 percent. Then, as one council member told me, with more for the advertising budget, additional affluent people could be drawn to Ocean City – from the north.
We all know the story, "It’s later than you think." Are these ships of state sinking? They are on the way at the existing rate.