Credit is due in Ocean City where officials are doing what they have to, albeit reluctantly. They are cutting spending a little bit at a time and have made it clear there will be more coming, not because they want to but because they have no other choice.
Times are tight everywhere, and the municipal and county governments are feeling the pinch in a big way because revenue from property assessments and other sources are expected to be down tremendously this year. That much was known for months, but the exact figures were revealed last week. Ocean City is projected to see a $7.7 million decrease in revenue for the next fiscal year budget. At the same, expenditures on such line items as cost of living raises, health insurance, unemployment insurance and energy are anticipated to climb $3.8 million. With all things yet to be considered, that means the projected deficit for the next fiscal year will likely soar beyond $11 million. That money will have to be made up with cuts because even considering tax increases would epitomize shallow, cowardly thinking. It would be unforgivable for any local government to further burden property owners with any tax increases in this day. The state had no problem instituting a series of tax increases last year, but that does not make it right.
This is a gloomy picture to be certain, but it’s also refreshing to see the town try and get ahead of the game. The county is reportedly on the same track, asking all departments to cut spending by a certain percentage, but details have not been revealed.
Throughout the country, businesses in the private sector are cutting expenses in light of economic projections, and governments need to adopt the same approach. Last week’s round of $1.4 million in cuts in Ocean City to services, events and numerous perks is a good start.
Clearly, the town was living the healthy life for years off the fat property assessments and now the time has come to make some adjustments. Gone are such frivolous expenses as $16,000 holiday gift cards given to employees, a $12,000 car wash contract, $190,000 in travel expenses and others.
These are a start, but there will be more to come and that’s the way it should be. The time is now to cut. Officials will need to balance doing it in a responsible fashion while making sure they are widespread and felt through city and county departments. It can’t be lopsided. There can’t be deep cuts for one department, while another escapes unscathed for the most part.
It’s encouraging to know local governments are making cuts because everyone else, from the private sector businesses to families to citizens, are making adjustments to deal with the times. It’s only fair the major tax collectors, local governments, and service providers, local governments, mirror that approach.