Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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You know money is getting super tight when governments start talking about turning streets lights off and reducing the number of paid holidays for employees.

That happened at City Hall in Ocean City this week as the Mayor and Council heard a sweeping proposal from City Manager Dennis Dare to cut costs and bring in more money. This was similar to what happened last year, but these cuts will likely hit home even more than last year’s moves. I enjoyed this week’s presentation because it shows that Ocean City is operated how it should, examining all costs publicly and questioning if savings are available. It’s something private enterprise has been forced to do over the last two years as well, and there’s no reason why government should not be doing the same thing.

For that matter, even private households are operating this way. After continually getting stung with high electric bills, I recently explored every window in my home to make sure they were properly sealed (six were cracked mysteriously) and changed any remaining “old-school” light bulb to the new green swirled kind. I am not as organized as the city is with financial cost savings estimates, but I’m guessing this will save me a few nickels a month.

Let’s take a look at two specific measures the city is current exploring to save a lot more than a few cents:

– Included on the reducing cost items was a plan to remove every other bulb on streets lights in the Inlet parking lot, the Boardwalk, Bayshore Drive and Baltimore Ave.

Blacking out every other light pole in the Inlet parking lot from Nov. 1-March 30 will reduce the town’s electric bill by $4,000, according to estimations. The same being done on Baltimore Ave. is projected to save $3,300 and on Bayshore Drive, $760.

Although nothing has been officially decided on the measure, it looks like all those except the Boardwalk may be approved. Understandable public safety concerns will likely derail that measure.

– As far as holidays go, Ocean City employees currently get 12 paid days off every year, compared to 10 for federal workers and 11 for state and county folks. It appears the city is going to come in line with state and county folks, but officials are not certain what day will be eliminated yet.

Currently, although it should be noted some folks, like the cops and public works employees, still clock in, Ocean City government is officially closed on the following holidays for 2010: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and day after, Christmas Eve (Friday, Dec. 24) and two days after (Monday, Dec. 27). In total, the town spends about $1.6 million in total cost for holiday pay.

The main difference between the city and federal employees is the feds do not get Black Friday off or the next working day after Christmas off. The only difference between county employees and their town counterparts is the county folks get Good Friday excused but not Black Friday or the next working day after Christmas. As far as the state employees go, they get all the same holidays as the town except for that odd first working day after Christmas.

What’s being discussed currently is what paid holiday will be taken out in 2011. Dare has submitted two options to the council: eliminate that second Christmas day off, saving about $130,000, or eliminate Fourth of July, saving around $127,000 because only 39 percent of employees actually take it.

The council will more than likely pick one of these two options – the extra Christmas day seems like the obvious pick to me – but it could also go rogue and be the first around here to axe Columbus Day, which has always seemed strange to me to have as a paid holiday. That would save about $130,000 because 49 percent of the town’s staff took that day off last year.

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