Q&A: OC Council Candidates
In a continuing effort to brief Ocean City registered voters on the candidates and their viewpoints, The Dispatch presents the second of a three-part, question-and-answer series with the seven City Council candidates.
Question 2: Finances will be a major concern in Ocean City government next year, as revenue is expected to decline from last year, due in part to decreasing property values on the island. Residents are also feeling the pinch from a struggling overall economy. Are you willing to ensure residents you will vote to decrease the property tax rate, as the council did earlier this year?
Brent Ashley: As a conservative, a rising or falling economy does not change my point of view. I would refuse to increase property taxes and would lower expenses. In a down economy, you must revamp your approach to the budget. Major cities use hybrid police cars. During the gas crisis of the 1980′s, the city used motor scooters. Move forward on renewable energy sources such as solar, geo-thermal, wind, biofuel and biodiesel. Because that’s the future. I would also call for a 10-percent decrease in city department budgets.
Doug Cymek: Our property tax bills will hopefully take a welcomed downturn next year, but at the same time there will be a corresponding reduction in tax revenues. The Mayor and Council will have to work diligently to find ways of reducing the costs of running our town.
Simply stated, I am not in favor of putting any increased tax burden on the backs of the taxpayers. If property tax values and revenue decline, the town must get back to basics and hold the line on spending. I pledge to work towards capping or reducing our current tax bills by continual review of expenditures and capital projects.
Jim Hall: As I write this answer on Tuesday, the stock market is down another 500 points. Our present tax bills are too high and yes I would lower the tax rate as we did this year. Additionally, it is my hope that the new assessments will dramatically decrease the amount of taxes all residents must pay. I believe the focus for the next couple years will all be on finances
Joe Hall: When personal finances tighten, so must your budget. It would be irresponsible for local government to ask our property owners to give anymore money than they paid in this tax year. I will hold taxes to the constant yield rate at the minimum while striving to even go below it. Essential services will be my priority, also keeping the town clean. After that I will review and help decide what wants are to be kept and which can be cutback.
A tightening of our governmental belt is necessary. I believe there are many areas of our budget we can change to a supporting role instead of a leading role, which will provide cost savings without sacrificing the priority of quality of life. By cutting your taxes, it will give you the property owners the extra money to maintain your properties and reinvest into the town as you personally choose. I believe you can spend your money better that government.
Jay Hancock: I won’t promise what, despite good intentions, may not be possible or practical. Other local revenue streams and moneys from federal, state and county sources also may decline significantly. In the 70s, New York City faced severe financial limitations and drastically cut its budget for public safety, infrastructure, services, etc. It lost businesses, visitors and residents, further worsening its finances. As a tourism-based economy, Ocean City cannot afford to appear unsafe, unclean or unwelcoming without devastating impacts to its broad economic health. With streamlined government and well-planned budget cuts, the constant yield tax rate is achievable – cuts below that cannot honestly be given.
Mary Knight: I will do all that I can to decrease the tax rate again, but it is impossible to ensure to what degree.
Remember 72 percent of the budget is fixed. We are taking pre-emptive measures now anticipating the need to decrease expenditures in fiscal 2010. As a council member, I have the experience to guide us through these challenging times. I will continue to find innovative ways to increase tourism, cut unessential items from the budget, and add enhancements that will save money while sustaining services.
We also must impress upon all state legislators that it is in their best interest to fund advertising to keep Marylanders’ tourism dollars in the State.
Sean Rox: Yes. The short-term solution is to utilize technology to reduce overhead. Wasting money on paper and postage is reckless in today’s fragile economy. The integration of e-mail into our everyday lives gives us the opportunity to eliminate the costs of printing and postage that currently burdens taxpayers. We’ll promote free computer access and training seminars for our citizens that require assistance adjusting to a paperless society.
The long-term solution would be to invest in generating energy from offshore wind turbines. This clean power is virtually unlimited and would provide Ocean City energy independence in these volatile times. The long-term savings of eco- friendly technology will save millions and insulate our property tax from runaway inflation.