Resort Finances In 3-Year Funk

OCEAN CITY – The “budgetkeeper” says that regardless of how things on a global or national level play out, Ocean City’s economic recovery is about three years away.

Councilman Jim Hall called City Manager Dennis Dare the “budgetkeeper” on Tuesday, as Dare’s main responsibilities is the budget. What was interesting, however, was Dare’s reply to another councilman’s query about the longevity of the current budget cuts.

Councilman Joe Hall asked Dare to explain if the cuts that have been made to the current budget (roughly $2.5 million) as well as next year’s budget are for the long term.

“Based on the $1.1 billion loss in property values, and the almost $4 million lost in tax revenue, our economic recovery is at least three years away,” said Dare. “If it’s been cut this year, it’s probably going to be cut for the next three years.”

Property assessments are done every three years, and if assessments increase, that hike is spread out over a three-year period, but if they decrease, they stay static at the lowest point for three years.

“We basically have to ask ourselves if we can live without some of these things for the next three years, and it hurts to take some of this stuff out”, said Dare.

Mayor Rick Meehan said that even though the cuts will be made for the three-year cycle, issues and concerns will not simply be cast to the wayside until the next assessment.

“I think we will continue to revisit things on an annual basis,” said Meehan, “but I think this budget process is off to a very good start.”

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas, who wants the tax rate reduced to 39 cents, believes the cuts are to stay.

“My impression is that these will be permanent cuts”, said Pillas. “Dennis said all along that he was ‘right sizing’ the way in which we run our government down to the way it should be run, so in this case I do believe him.”

Council President Joe Mitrecic seemed to think that it would be counterproductive to make reductions to the budget this year, if the idea would be to simply bring it back next year.

“It doesn’t do the taxpayers any good to cut everything, only to bring it back and then have to raise the tax rate even higher next year,” he said.