Higher City Revenues Could Be Used On Canal Dredging

OCEAN CITY – City government revenue has been higher than expected so far this fiscal year, and at least one City Council member thinks the unexpected monies should be directed to canal dredging.
Budget Manager Jennie Knapp introduced Budget Amendment #2 for Fiscal Year 2013 to the Mayor and Council this week. Knapp submitted the budget amendment recognizes additional revenue from Income Tax, Admissions Tax, Room Tax and Cable TV Franchise to reduce the amount needed from fund balance for the fiscal year. In addition, the amendment adjusts other revenue and expense line items for FY13.
The amount taken from prior year reserves, or fund balance, decreased $827,570 from $3,809,250 approved in Budget Amendment #1 for FY 13, due to expenses for Inlet parking lot controls around $400,000. The total amount to be taken from prior year reserves is $2,981,680 for FY13.
“The overall good news is we are able to take less money out of fund balance then we had originally anticipated mostly that is because several key revenue sources performed better than we had anticipated in FY 13,” Knapp said.
The council voted unanimously to have Budget Amendment #2 return during a Monday night legislative session to pass on first reading.
“I would like to thank staff for a great Budget Amendment #2,” Councilman Dennis Dare said at the conclusion of Tuesday afternoon’s meeting. “That is fantastic that we can come up with almost $1 million. A week or so ago, when we were talking about the Capital Improvement Plan and the bond ordinance regarding the dredging of the lagoons, and that ought to be something on a pay-as-we-go basis instead of bonding it. The report that we have here perhaps provides the opportunity for us to address that.”
Last month, the council reviewed a list of potential projects to include in an upcoming bond sale at the end of the year or not. One of them was canal dredging estimated to cost $1 million.
“I feel that if you are going to bond something for 20 years it ought to last 20 years … I am not so sure that Mother Nature is going to allow the canals to remain open for 20 years once we dredge them,” he said. “The waterfront property owners already pay a premium in their taxes to the Town of Ocean City, Worcester County and to the State of Maryland. The canals are open to the public just like the road ways, so I think it is something that we should pay as we go through our tax receipts.”
This week Dare made a motion for staff to prepare a report on what the first phase of the dredging would include and the costs required.
Dare acknowledged permits have been issued and designs are basically complete.
“Time is somewhat of the essence,” he said. “To get that going and get it to bid, so that the work could possibly be done this spring in preparation for the boating season because as I understand some of the lagoons on the south end of town are severe and are going to start effecting property values for these folks.”
The council voted unanimously to approve staff to prepare cost estimates for phase 1 of canal dredging.
“As all of you know, there are many, many demands for your very limited financial resources, and while staff will certainly prepare a cost analysis for dredging, dredging is but one of those many demands,” City Manager David Recor said. “I want to encourage you to look at the big picture, and there are certainly monies for canal dredging if you choose to do so, but what we would like to do is come back when we have that discussion with a list of these other things for you to prioritize and choose from where you would like to allocate those funds.”