OC’s Proposed Business Fee Hike Tabled For Now

OCEAN CITY – While the City Council entertained the notion of tabling or addressing a 2-percent raise in business license fees, it could be the consumer that finds the outcome the least entertaining.

Three fee adjustments were presented to the Mayor and City Council on Tuesday, and as two were passed, the other seemed to be too drastic a change for some on the council at this time.

A proposed 2-percent raise in business license fees was tabled on Tuesday as Council thought that the price-hike on over 100 options in the license process should only be passed if absolutely necessary.

“I don’t see us doing any more work to raise the fee. What’s that extra dollar for? To just add fees to over a 100 items is, to me, just gouging money from the tourists, citizens and users of all these things,” said Councilman Jim Hall. “To me, you are just jamming the owner, and he is just going to pass it on to the consumer. What are we doing? I’d like to table this and bring it up at budget time.”

What did pass however, was the raise in fees for a permit that allows people to drive their vehicle on the Boardwalk in hopes of creating less traffic.

“The reason for the fee is to prevent people from abusing the privilege of having the ability to drive their vehicles onto the Boardwalk. It’s been $10 for 20 years, and maybe $10 is not as much as it used to be,” said City Engineer Terry McGean.

The council voted to pass the raise in permit fee from $10 to $50 for the boardwalk vehicle permit, and a $50 fee will be charged in order for construction companies to get a “staging permit” that would allow them to place a dumpster on the Boardwalk, according to McGean’s proposal.

“There has historically been no charge for a ‘construction staging’ permit in the past,” said McGean.

According to City Manager Dennis Dare, the fees are necessary to compensate for fluctuating operational costs.

“We are probably only collecting 80 percent of what we are spending in administration fees. This year, we project that the fees collected will not cover the operating expenses, said Dare.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres explained how the raise in permit fees was not for monetary gain, but to recoup expenses. “All permit fees are supposed to cover the costs of administration fees, if you exceed those costs, then the state mandates a tax,” he said.

McGean’s entire proposal might have been tabled on a Jim Hall stance to “bring the idea up at budget time” but that was refuted by a fellow councilman and the mayor.

“I have been pushing for us to review expenses and to cut costs, and that’s extremely important,” said Joe Hall, “But, I believe also that if we don’t start having discussions on revenue streams now, we are going to pile up a heap of stuff to deal with at budget time.

The mayor stressed that “budget time” is not an upcoming issue, but rather an ongoing one.

“We are sending some mixed messages in the verbiage that we are using. Someone says, ‘we should talk about things during budget time,’ but I think that budget time really started in October. We are looking at the current fiscal year budget and see where we can save money this year, and move those changes forward to next year for additional savings. It is budget time, but I do agree with Jim Hall’s notion to make cuts first and then deal with revenue enhancements. That would be a good order of a way to address things,” said Meehan.