City Financial Report Details Last Fiscal Year

OCEAN CITY – Local residents looking to see where the money is coming from and just how local government is spending it now can view the 131-page annual Ocean City financial report or the eight-paged “easy-to-read” version.

City Finance Administrator Martha Lucey presented the report, which has earned a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for 19 straight years, to the Mayor and City Council on Monday and was praised by Mayor Rick Meehan for “giving Ocean City such a detailed snapshot of what we in local government are trying to do for the town.”

In the 131-page report, equipped with graphs, charts and extensive reports, Lucey showed just how Ocean City fared in fiscal year 2008 in comparison to past years, showing the town’s $6.4 million, or 5 percent, increase in overall financial position from last year.

Revenue from property taxes, which makes up 57 percent of the town government’s revenue source, went up $5.6 million or 14.5 percent due to increases in assessments and new construction, and the half-percent raise in hotel room tax, which came under loads of scrutiny when it passed in 2007, created $1.7 million for the town to spend directly on marketing Ocean City as a tourism destination.

The town’s biggest expense is public safety with expenses of $32.3 million, which was almost an 11-percent increase from last year. Included in the public safety category numbers were the police, EMS, fire and communications. The police department gets 59 percent of that expense with just over $19 million in expenditures last year.

In the utility department, wastewater continues to be the biggest expense with $9.6 million and transportation coming in just under that at just over $8 million. Water and the convention center came in third and fourth with $7 million and $6 million in spending, respectively.

All told, Ocean City’s total revenues for 2008 were almost $77.1 million with total expenses reaching the $70.36 million mark.

According to the report, the town of Ocean City has $84.5 million of debt, but almost $49 million of that will be paid for by service fees and an additional $35.5 million paid for by general tax revenues.

The one red-flag that seemed to come up in the report was the dwindling funding ratio of the city employee pension plans, with general employee pension plans only running at 72 percent, down from 75 percent, and public safety employees running at a funding ration of 69 percent, which is down from 73 percent last year.

Late last month, Lucey went before Mayor and City Council proposing a required 5-percent, pay-in to their pension plans by all city employees until the day they retire. Currently, after 30 years of service, general city employees stop paying into their pension plans. The town of Ocean City continues to pay 100 percent over $5 million into both the general and public safety employee funds. With an aging town employee workforce that sees 33 current employees not currently paying into their plans and an additional 35 set to reach the 30-year tenure level, pension funding could become an issue that falls on taxpayers shoulders to make up the difference.

The following are other interesting findings from the report:

— There are now 8,248 year-round residents.

— The average summer population is 258,726

— Total arrests was 3,599.

— Total number of parking violations: 11,749

—  Fire responses: 1,344

— Ambulance responses: 5,680

— 2008 Construction permits issued: 1,795

— 2007 construction permits issued: 2,065

— Estimated value of construction 2008: $69.5 million

— Estimated value of construction 2007: $164.6 million