OCEAN CITY – Although the reaction may have been a bit preemptive, the end result could stimulate the same kind of bad news for local municipalities and their shrinking budgets.
In Ocean City this week, as per a “heads up” email sent in response to the town’s request to find out how much Worcester County was going to trim the grant money provided to municipalities this year, both City Manager Dennis Dare, Mayor Rick Meehan and several members of the City Council were proverbially licking their wounds after learning that their request to only shave 3-percent from last year’s grant total from the county was reportedly going to be more to the tune of 10 percent less.
“The County Commissioners had asked all their departments to cut back by 3 percent, and we thought that was a fair and reasonable request, so I went before them and said we were willing to take 3 percent less than (the $2.1 million in) grants we got last year,” said Meehan.
Meehan said he was under the impression the 10-percent cut, which would equate to $210,000 for Ocean City, was a done deal.
“I think that it’s unreasonable and I’m very disappointed by their decision,” said Meehan. “Just because it’s given under the term grant doesn’t mean that it’s a gift that we get from the county. That money is a way that we address tax differential.”
Despite the reaction by Ocean City officials, the reality of the situation, according to County Commission President Louise Gulyas, is no official decision has been made.
“I told them that nothing was set in stone, so it might be less, and it might be more,” said Gulyas. “Everyone needs to just calm down because we won’t be talking about any numbers until Wednesday.”
County Commission Vice President Bud Church was a bit more direct in expressing his surprise for the hasty reaction from the town.
“Anyone that tells you that it’s a done deal or it’s a definite 10-percent cut is just blowing smoke,” said Church.
Council President Joe Mitrecic found the county’s estimated cut to be displeasing and thought that the county was not looking internally at making cuts.
“The problem I have with it is that they are balancing their budget on the school children of Worcester County and by making cuts to the area’s municipalities,” said Mitrecic. “They haven’t looked anywhere else.”
After being informed that the decision was yet to be made, Meehan turned his tune from obvious disappointment to an air of optimism.
“Well, that’s a good thing if it’s still up for discussion,” said Meehan. “We’ve prepared ourselves for the worst, but I hope the county will make a decision that will be closer to the 3-percent request that we felt was very fair in these economic conditions.”
Whatever the commissioners decide to do as far as cutting the grant money for municipalities, Church said all cuts would be “across the board and no one area will be cut more than another.”