Ocean City News In Brief

OCEAN CITY — In the brief this week, City Manager Dennis Dare brought a few new cost cutting and revenue enhancement measures to the Mayor and City Council, including an optional return of city cell phones for employees.

Optional Phone Return Passed

Though City Council members have the option to keep theirs, they voted unanimously to approve a new cost saving program to allow 95 city employees who have been issued cell phones to return theirs and receive a stipend for the usage of their personal line for city business.

City Manager Dennis Dare outlined the “optional” program on Tuesday, estimating that the savings to the town could be about $4,000 a year.

“The city currently has 95 issued cell phones, which costs us about $2,800 a month or $34,000 a year,” said Dare. “What we’ve found is that a lot of our employees have their own personal cell phones as well and are carrying around two cell phones. With this program, the city would subsidize $10 per paycheck or $20 per month for them to turn in their city phone and use their personal line for work.”

Council President Joe Mitrecic will be the first in line to turn in his city cell phone and finds it to be a good recommendation by the city manager.

“I’m a perfect example of this, because right now, I usually leave the city cell phone in my truck, and I have all my calls forwarded to my other cell phone anyway,” said Mitrecic. “The only thing I don’t get is my pages, and I’ll be happy to pay for that on my own phone with this stipend.”

The city’s cell phone plan is a basic $33.99 per month (450 minutes with a 15-percent discount) through Verizon Wireless.

Seasonal Wage Decrease Pitched

In a related cost-cutting effort, Dare told the council a recent study of competitive wages for seasonal workers showed the town was essentially overpaying.

As a result of the findings of this study, based on Market Date and statistical information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dare proposed, and the council unanimously approved, a reduction of seasonal hourly wages by one grade.

For instance, a concession worker that was once deemed to be a grade 3 employee earning $10.55 per hour will now earn $9.70 per hour, which will accrue a savings of approximately $2,500 in just that position alone.

Tram drivers are getting their pay reduced 98 cents to $11.20 an hour, while parking lot attendants will see their hourly wage reduced by 96 cents to $10.55 per hour.

Dare said that the move effects roughly 78 seasonal employees and will save the town about $43,503.

Retiree Insurance Refunded

When the council chose to move a little more than $500,000 that was essentially allotted in this current budget to the retiree health insurance fund to use to set the tax rate at 39.5 cents per $100 assessed valuation, it promised the taxpayers that the first $500,000 they saved would go back to refund what they proverbially borrowed from the retiree fund.

On Tuesday, Dare said that the entirety of that sum has been accounted for and will be included in Budget Manager Jennie Knapp’s budget amendment #2 in the next few months.

“When Jennie gives the report, it will recognize that with the recent taxi medallion revenue, the retirement incentive program, as well as a few other savings measures, the remaining deficit left to pay back to the retiree health insurance fund will be complete.” said Dare.

During Budget Amendment #1, Knapp used over $370,000 in pension savings and $65,000 in interest savings to essentially refund $437,000 earlier this year.

The remaining $101,285 will be moved back into the fund during the second budget amendment, fulfilling the council’s promise as per last year’s lower tax rate.