Support Needed To Reduce OC Tax Rate
(The following letter was addressed to the taxpayers of Ocean City with a copy forwarded to this newspaper for publicatin.)
I thank you for your vote of confidence in my candidacy for Ocean City Council. I find the job of serving you challenging and exciting. We are in a serious time and have the great opportunity to make changes in the role local municipal government plays here in Ocean City.
Ocean City has become a city that now runs and controls the tourism industry. The town continues to dive deeper and deeper into the support structure that should allow private business development to succeed. We need to reverse this trend and become a town that allows private business to succeed on its own. Our role must be one of support, not the leader/manager of the tourism industry. If you agree with me and/or have strong ideals that may help our businesses survive this tough economic time, please become publicly vocal. Change is hard and naturally resisted even though it can be better for all of us. Please remember there can be no reward without some responsible risk taking.
The full council has been working weekly on cost-reduction measures. So far we have been doing the easy stuff and with minimal resistance. The time has come to roll up our selves and address the really big money numbers. Labor is 80 percent of our budget. The only way to make a real impact on these figures is to address the level of services we are providing. The town employs almost 800 full-time employees that receive bi-weekly paychecks, premium healthcare benefits, define retirement benefit package, a promise of retired healthcare and some even get a take-home vehicle. The great pay and benefit package the town provides our employees is producing some of the must loyal and productive employees anyone could hope to have working for you.
So, as we address the budget, we must keep in mind that we could have a negative effect on employee productivity. We currently fund a level of service much higher than most other municipal governments. When you need something from your town, there is the staff here to address your concerns, whether that be a public safety issue or an affordable transportation service. My fellow council members and I need your help in knowing how much you are willing to reduce the level of services you are receiving for your tax dollars.
For example, we maintain at least three full ambulance crews 24-7, 365 days a year along with a shift lieutenant, allowing them to respond to your health emergency in less than five minutes. Taking away one of those crews may increase that response to five to eight minutes. The question: Is the four-minute plus delay in arrival to your emergency worth the saving that could be realized? Responsibly, we must ask and get the answers to questions like this. I’m not qualified to decide alone what level your willing to accept or what will meet your personal needs. You must let the full council know what you want and can afford. I’m not at this time suggesting we cut the service level of the EMS. I used them as the example to get your full attention. I felt everyone could see the importance of what we are trying to do. It makes it real personal when a public safety issue is on the budget-cutting block.
We currently maintain the highest level of services in every department in the town’s government. To continue to maintain all these services at current levels, taxes will have to be raised. I believe this is not the time to raise taxes. Therefore, I am asking you to help the City Council identify services you’re willing to give up, which can be continued at a reduced level and which have to be maintained at current level no matter what the cost.
The $1.4 million in cuts that have been brought forward won’t put a dent in your tax bill. If you expect a tax reduction this coming year, you must become vocal now. Department budgets are already being made that will shape the new town budget. Once it gets officially proposed, it rarely has ever changed in any drastic way. Only you have the power to make the difference in this coming year’s budget.
I am personally motivated to reducing your city property tax bill this coming year. I do not feel that I have enough of my fellow council members’ support to achieve this ambitious goal. I am enlisting you to help me convince at least three other council members and the mayor to allow a tax cut 2 cents below the constant yield rate. We need this commitment to occur within weeks after the new year so that we can give our city manager the clear goal as to what we expect to receive when he presents the new budget coming this late winter. I will be happy to make the motion to direct the city manager to deliver a budget 2 cents below the constant yield tax rate with a focus on maintaining public safety and a strong infrastructure. I need you to help me get a second to that motion and a total of three fellow council members’ votes. To pass such a budget we will also need the mayor’s support and/or a veto proof fifth vote.
Please have a happy holiday season and remember to always “Play It Safe” now and in the new year.
Councilman Joseph T. Hall II
Just Get Used To It
I’d like to respond to Mr. Jacobs letter of last week, regarding "representation". Sadly Mr. Jacobs there was a time when one who resided for thirty days had the right to vote in Ocean City Municipal elections. But that consideration proved to inhibit our local officials and long ago they withdrew that option for property owners and other short timers, in the name of progress and the federal voter registration act.
While I understand some resort communities to our north, provide for limited property owner voting rights, such is not the case in Ocean City; "locals" seemingly don’t like to share government accountability with their non-legal resident owners. Certainly city elected officials are not enthusiastic about sharing the vote with those of us who don’t claim legal domicile in town, regardless of our interest in the city or our property tax payments. Welcome to the club.
Budget Cuts A Must
I agree with what Bernard Jacobs wrote in the paper last week.
Everyone is cutting back on spending and Ocean City should to. Vehicles being taken home should not be allowed. Other towns are putting an end to it and Ocean City should to. That is one reason we have to replace the vehicles so often.
With the pay and benefits the police department get, we should not have to furnish them a car to get to work. If the town does not cut back on the police department, we are going to be like GM and Chrysler, no money. This City Council should start looking into how to cut before we get in that shape.
Benefits should be looked into. The town should not foot the whole bill. All employees should pay part of it.
Cell phones should be set up with the same rate for all like $40 a month. If they go over, let the employee pay the difference. They should not be allowed to use them for personal use and charge it to the city.
As for taxes, other places are changing how they tax owners that are not registered voters. When you pay the same for everything else in town, why should your taxes be more. The roads, streets, water, etc. are being used by the people paying less taxes for them. The system needs to be looked into.
Obama say’s changes are coming. Let’s see.
Spigot Never Sought
For Memorial Garden
In response to last week’s Mayor and Council meeting on Dec. 8, maybe someone would or could have talked to me about the Veterans Memorial Garden in Berlin.
Since no one has, I offer this.
I have taken care of the Veterans Memorial Garden for several years and never asked for a spigot, neither did they, the veterans.
We bought an old truck, my partner rigged her up with two 50 gallon barrels, submersible pumps fittings, and hoses, to be able to water the Memorial Garden.
My only fear, in the last couple of droughtful years, was my taking more than 3,000 gallons of water out of my well each summer. That would be my only request, that the town, somehow, from somewhere, let me fill those barrels.
Half of the above-mentioned article, was about a spigot. What does that have to do with the failing roads in Berlin?
What really struck me, was the councilwoman who said, "I am not against the "vets or anything like that, I just don’t think we need it". (Concerning the spigot, of course, I guess). I didn’t ask for a spigot, neither did they.
This small, yet important, Memorial Garden gets very little attention. There is, as we know, a new more fabulous one in Ocean Pines.
When I am tending to the Memorial Garden, I read the names on that granite monument, and the plaques on the wall, and I thank God for those service men and women how helped to allow me to have a safe life today.
The town did take care of the Memorial Garden before I began tending to it. It was an embarrassment. I would drive into town and feel bad about it.
If no one wants the Veterans Memorial Garden, than pave over it when the streets are repaired and be done with it.
The Veterans whose names are on monuments all over this great country should not be forgotten. Their places of memory forgotten.
Lately, there are some that think that the Veterans Memorial Garden should be sprayed and maintained by the town. That is, not by private citizens, whatever that means.
Another thing, while I’m on a roll, the town never lowers or raises the flags in a timely manner. It must be someone very important when the flag is lowered for weeks. Others have notified this phenomenon and tried to figure it out. We rely on the town to keep these days of respect taken care of.