Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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Government officials across the lower shore are showing concerns about how they are going to get through the upcoming budget season. That much is clear after just a few meetings in 2012.

In Ocean City, Councilmen Doug Cymek and Lloyd Martin took issue Tuesday with the Ocean City Police Department’s three-captain restructuring plan, believing the department could get by with an efficient two-captain system that would result in some salary savings. In a 5-2 vote, the City Council ultimately okayed the three-captain proposal, which resulted in a lieutenant being advanced to captain and several subsequent promotions down the line.

In Worcester, the County Commissioners would usually have little to say about a $6,000 study of a sewer plant expansion, but not on Tuesday. Several commissioners wondered if outsourcing the plant study, to the tune of $6,000, was truly necessary, questioning if county staff could carry out the examination instead. Eventually, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve an outside firm to carry out the study, but it wasn’t without a friendly reminder to not go over that amount and to try and handle some aspects of the study in-house.

In Wicomico, the County Council is hesitant to move forward with an endorsement on Bennett Middle School’s future over financial concerns. Whether to okay a massive renovation of the aging facility or replacing it altogether will be decided later this month, but between now and then serious fiscal considerations will be crunched and will surely be the clincher.

This heightened inspection of all expenditures is always a good thing, but it makes me wonder what’s looming ahead. My guess is tax increases for most property owners, if not all of us.

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While many folks understandably dispute their validity in accurately counting heads in Ocean City at any given time, the weekly demoflush estimates are extremely useful in comparing the numbers from one year to the next.

According to numbers released by Communications Manager Donna Abbott this week, 2011’s population estimates were down 1 percent from 2010. However, the 2011 figures will always include an asterisk because they are skewed as a result of the fourth weekend in August being lost as a result of Hurricane Irene.

Due to the evacuation, demoflush estimates were not computed, resulting in a “zero” for that weekend. Without the storm’s lost weekend, clearly crowd estimates would have surpassed 2010’s figures and rivaled 2009 and 2002. In some cases, 2011 was better than previous years even with the lost weekend.

Below is a look at annual demoflush estimates for the last decade.

2011: 8,164,466
2010: 8,244,783
2009: 8,486,612
2008: 7,866,091

2007: 8,151,132
2006: 8,239,349
2005: 8,165,703
2004: 8,012,229
2003: 8,004,608
2002: 8,360,627
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The unseasonable and dry weather that dominated last month helped make Winterfest of Lights in Ocean City a record breaking event, bringing in more than $500,000 revenue, most of which if not all of that is offset by the expensive to operate the extravagant special event.Here’s a look at Winterfest of Lights tram passenger data dating back to 1993:

2011: 107,405
2010: 84,230
2009: 74,726
2008: 80,915
2007: 86,844
2006: 93,227
2005: 87,643
2004: 83,602
2003: 85,825
2002: 78,835
2001: 93,937
2000: 58,470
1999: 90,263
1998: 81,325
1997: 83,034
1996: 79,138
1995: 76,138
1994: 91,787
1993: 72,633

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