When dealing with a service that accounts for a heavy financial burden (and loss), it’s the job of government to try and minimize the severity of the problem.
That’s what the Ocean City Public Works Department is doing with its proposal to cut the option of paying a dollar for a one-way ride on Coastal Highway. Instead, the department has suggested to the city it return to simply offering the all-day pass for $3. This change will increase bus revenue by about $500,000 in the next fiscal year’s budget. That means the town can reduce the amount of money it has to spend to provide bus service from $1.9 million this year to $1.37 million in the next budget.
These are savings that are needed and will be critical if the Mayor and Council are serious about getting the town’s property tax rate back to the constant yield level, as was indicated this week.
We do not see this change as carrying major harm for the visiting or residential community. We believe a majority of the users of the bus purchase the $3 all-day pass, which remains a tremendous value in today’s world.
Critics of the move suggest it’s another move to hurt the local residents who have been utilizing the buck-a-ride offering since it was introduced. If that’s the case, the citizens need to turn out at next month’s public hearing to let the city’s elected officials know about their umbrage. We simply do not think it’s a major issue.
This change needs to be made. Without it, there’s little chance the town will be able to find the funds necessary to keep the property tax rate at the constant yield level. That should be the council’s goal.
As proposed, the city’s property tax rate will increase a penny over the constant yield rate, the number the State Department of Assessment and Taxation sets as the rate that will bring in the same amount of property tax revenue as the year prior.
Ocean City’s staff and elected officials can find the $851,795 necessary to cut. That’s the amount that equates to a penny on the tax rate. However, it probably cannot be done without changing up the bus option.
During this week’s meeting, Councilman Joe Mitrecic asked for an additional budget meeting prior to first reading. He said, “Do I think we can take away the full penny? I don’t know if that is possible, but I do believe there is some savings that can be found in the budget at the staff level to bring forward as a recommendation to council to take a look at before first reading.”
The city can find the required savings to make that happen.