SNOW HILL – The introduction of state legislation allowing Worcester County and Ocean City to reduce taxes for Trimper’s Rides at the Boardwalk prompted Jolly Roger Amusement Park to ask for the same consideration this week, but the County Commissioners will not vote on their support for a tax break for Jolly Rogers until they see the draft legislation.
Some commissioners expressed definite support for the bill during the discussion at the meeting Tuesday, while others expressed mixed feelings.
“When I was a kid riding up and down the Boardwalk, there was a lot more things for families to do than there are today. The amusement industry is shrinking, shrinking, shrinking,” said Commissioner Bud Church.
“We are a family resort and to keep that out in the forefront we must keep our amusement parks,” said Ocean City’s Commissioner Louise Gulyas.
Trimper’s and Jolly Roger are the only amusement parks in the resort.
“If either one of those were to go to a mobile home park or condominium complex that would be devastating to Ocean City,” Church said. “It’s the one industry Ocean City is really lacking now.”
Gulyas said she supports the legislation’s intent.
“We’re trying to help a business owner keep their amusement park there in Ocean City by helping him with financial obligations to the city, and county,” said Gulyas.
Commissioner Judy Boggs said the legislation should wait a year.
“We also have an obligation to the taxpayer,” said Boggs. “The budget deficit is growing and the General Assembly hasn’t even looked at the initiatives the governor wants to have. That bothers me. … The state is going to be putting burden after burden on the counties.”
Commissioner Linda Busick supported some tax help for the amusement parks, but added, “I’d like to see other businesses get tax relief.”
Commissioner Bob Cowger said more requests for tax relief will be made.
“We need to look at every one on a separate basis,” said Cowger.
Commissioner Virgil Shockley said he wanted to see the draft of the bill before making a decision.
Ocean City can reduce its city tax rates if it wants to help businesses and residential property owners, Busick said.
Buddy Jenkins, chair of Jolly Roger owner Bayshore Development Corp., went before the commissioners Tuesday and asked for help.
Jolly Roger, located at 30th Street and on the pier at the Boardwalk, is the largest amusement park in the region stretching from Delaware to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The park hosted 166 non-profit groups for fundraisers last year, according to Jenkins.
“That needs to be protected. That needs to have some consideration,” he said.
Jolly Roger’s payroll puts millions back into the local economy, said Jenkins, but amusement parks face a lot of taxes and costs.
“It’s a major industry that’s under pressure,” he said.
The commissioners voted to ask Delegate Jim Mathias to draft a bill separate from the Trimper’s tax break bill, establishing enabling legislation permitting the county and the resort to reduce taxes on the Jolly Roger properties. Boggs voted against.
A letter from Trimper’s Rides Vice President Doug Trimper opposed the Jolly Roger request.
“While it is true that we both operate amusement rides, any similarity really ends there,” Trimper wrote. “The thing that makes our property unique is being a staple of downtown Ocean City. It is tradition, a history of 117 years as a symbol of what the Boardwalk represents to Marylanders that differentiates our property from that of Mr. Jenkins’.”