Ocean City Plans Another Shot At Tax Differential

OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and City Council have voted to send a letter to the Worcester County Commissioners to request a more equitable tax setoff program that the town’s residents deserve.

Mayor Rick Meehan presented the letter, addressed to James Church, President of the Worcester County Commissioners, to the council and public during last week’s Mayor and City Council meeting.  

According to the letter in 2007, the Mayor and City Council requested the Worcester County Commissioners consider a property tax set-off and provided a comprehensive study of the services that the town provides, funded by property tax revenues.

The study identified county services account for over $13 million in property taxes Ocean City residents should not be required to pay.

“They [County Commissioners] didn’t 100 percent agree with that $13 million figure, but they did recognize there was a significant amount that should be recognized,” Meehan said.

Once the commissioners recognized the cost of these services, they increased the undesignated grant to Ocean City from the 2008 budget, which was set at $350,000 to $2.4 million in the 2009 budget. In 2010 and 2011, this grant and other grants were decreased by 10 percent.

“We realize that this is a difficult time,” Meehan said. “We’re asking them for our grant level to be restored to what it was in 2009 plus an additional 5 percent, and then we’re asking and suggesting that over the next five years they add 10 percent a year to the undesignated grant so that we can begin to raise this figure up.”

The council has asked state legislators to submit a bill to require Worcester County to provide a tax differential for the Ocean City taxpayers to allow them the same equity that is given to other municipal property owners in the state.

The council will continue to work with the commissioners in order to change tax rates incrementally over a five-year period in regards to the current grant tax setoff program.

 “We’re going to get told by the County Commissioners that they don’t have the money, but in all honesty and sincerity they have the money because we give it to them,” Meehan said. “They’ve just chosen to allocate it for different purposes.”

The mayor said his letter does not request other municipality funds be dropped.

“We don’t have any problem with any grants given to any other municipalities, we’ve always supported each other over the county commissioners, but it is just an economical equitable percentage,” Meehan said. “I think we need to be very adamant in our request to seek fairness for the taxpayers of Ocean City, and to move forward, and to build on this grant to a more equally deserved proportion of tax setoff for Ocean City.”