OCEAN CITY – Councilman Joe Hall got his chance to talk about his hopes to lower taxes this year, but despite being given some harsh numbers that might thwart those ideas, he feels it’s still an “achievable goal.”
After two letters to the editor and pleas to his fellow council members and the public to support his desire for Ocean City to deliver a 5-percent tax decrease this year, Hall was met with some staggering numbers from City Manager Dennis Dare, and only a handful of supporters in the crowd on Tuesday at City Hall.
“The current tax rate is 38 cents,” said Dare, “and if we wanted to send everyone in Ocean City the same tax bill as last year, the tax rate would have to be 42 cents.”
Dare cited that property tax revenue is projected to be down $1.5 billion, which equates to an estimated $5.2 million less in tax revenue brought in by the town of Ocean City.
“Our assessment decreases 12.2 percent from $11.8 billion to $10.4 billion, so it’s not as bad as what we had originally thought. We anticipate very little being assessed and construction will be mostly repairs, as there are no big projects planned,” said Dare.
Hall has been public with his concerns on the increasing size of government in Ocean City and the associated increased costs.
“The public knows that one of the main reasons I ran for office is that the cost of living here and doing business here is crossing the threshold for many people for what they are willing to bear,” said Hall, “I don’t believe that lessening the levels of service would be unreasonable but it would be difficult. We need to do all in our power to provide relief of the resident’s tax burden.”
The level of service that he referred to is directly linked to his controversial ideas to perhaps trim the essential services provided by the town in the winter months, such as EMS.
Hall was admittedly a bit downtrodden by the turnout from the public at the meeting, but cited the issue was placed at the end of the agenda, people’s fears of speaking in public and the poor weather conditions as possible factors.
“I feel more strongly than ever that the economy will dictate that we need to do what I am proposing,” said Hall. “Every indicator by economists says that it’s going to get worse before it gets better and it is absolutely achievable to lower taxes. At this point, it’s reasonable and responsible.”
Hall said that Dare’s $2.5 million in budget cuts partnered with the proposed $900,000 in additional tax revenue from the parking lot is a good start, but hinted that he was still looking to sway his fellow council members to get on board with his way of thinking.