Proposed Cuts Merit Opposition
Thank you for your article regarding Growing Hope’s efforts to bring Michael DeLeon to the resort to speak about the epidemic of substance abuse and addictions in this country. I applaud their efforts. However, what people really need to know, and to be paying attention to, is that the current administration in Washington is taking direct aim at eliminating VAWA (the Violence against Women Act) and SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). They’ve already published their first list of 17 programs/agencies to be eliminated and VAWA is on the first list. It is expected that SAMHSA will be on the second list. They propose to completely eliminate or to severely slash these budgets which would have devastating consequences. VAWA and SAMHSA provide desperately needed funding to our local community based agencies that deal with the issues of domestic violence and substance abuse every day, such as the Life Crisis Center, the Worcester County Health Department and the Crisis Response Team.
These local community-based services provide the critical support to law enforcement officials who are the first responders on calls regarding domestic violence and persons experiencing a mental health crisis. Without these services the lives of our law enforcement officials is placed at greater risk and human life is lost.
We live in a small community, I doubt there is anyone who does not know someone whose life has been touched by the devastating impacts of addictions, mental health and/or domestic violence. Bringing a greater awareness to the problem of addictions is great, but what families really need are intensive treatment services in the community where addicts can recover successfully, SAMHSA tries to provide that.
Please, please, call Andy Harris and voice your opposition to any cuts or elimination of these programs and services. Let’s show Washington that we care about all human life. Families who are suffering will thank you.
Rezoning Would Set Disturbing Precedent
I was recently made aware of a request to rezone the Pine Shore Golf Course South property, from E-1 (as decided upon in the Worcester County Comprehensive Plan) to A-2 zoning that could allow for the development of a campground off Routes 611 and 376. I oppose the precedent of making this change in such a critical, fragile area. I live in South Point, and the impact of the proposed high density sites, bringing 311 families and their corresponding vehicles into an area that is our one way out for evacuation purposes, is alarming.
I understand that a proposed increase of 213 sites in Frontier Town will extend the property all the way to the Route 611 and Route 376 intersection. Traffic has already noticeably increased along these two routes in the summer months in the past couple of years. We already have existing campgrounds in our immediate area off of Route 611: Frontier Town, (585 + 213 sites = 798 sites); Castaways, (394 sites); and Assateague State and Federal campground sites, (498 sites). These numbers do not even take into account the large number of day visitors to each of these parks, or to the Rum Pointe, Ocean City and Eagles’ Landing golf courses. Nor does it include the high density sites in Assateague Pointe and Bayside developments. Increasing the population density along this corridor could be creating a very dangerous situation for visitors and residents alike.
Please do not permit this rezoning to A-2. Not only would it be dangerous for evacuation purposes and affect traffic safety of bicyclists, joggers and vehicles; but it would also compound the water quality issues in Ayres Creek, and would change the character of the fragile and pristine area that we love and care for. Please let us not destroy what makes our area so unique. Please be on alert for notice of the public hearing to be held on this matter.
Jan L. Adamchak
Land Purchase Questioned
The Ocean City Mayor & City Council (M&CC) are purchasing a parcel of land in the 200 block of St. Louis Avenue. One of the stated purposes of the acquisition is to relocate the Boardwalk Tram operation from the Inlet to the new location. While logistically there are some issues such as trams crossing Baltimore and Philadelphia avenues to reach the Boardwalk, the M&CC has finally provided the public with some reasonable explanations regarding this purchase. I can accept some of their logic.
However, I do object to the fact that they are paying $220,000 over the appraised value. The M&CC are paying $2,000,000 for a property that they had appraised for $1,780,000. There is an abundance of evidence to suggest they are overpaying for the property. For example, recent assessments have revealed widespread reductions in land values of commercial property accounts throughout Ocean City.
The M&CC have a fiduciary responsibility to preserve our tax dollars. Overpaying for property with public funds is bad enough, but what adds “insult to injury” is that they did not reveal the fact that they are paying nearly 12.4% over the appraised value. The M&CC continue to show a lack of transparency when dealing with the residents and property owners of Ocean City.
It should not be the responsibility of citizens to flush this out. The M&CC should be more forthcoming with this kind of information.
Vincent DePaul Gisriel, Jr.
Why are 35 state pension funds perilously underfunded? What are they doing wrong? However private pension funds are significantly more solvent. In general, public pension funds assume their money will grow by on average 7.5% per annum, the higher growth estimate allows a lower annual contribution, while private funds assume 3.5% annual growth rate requiring a much higher annual fund contribution. Overtime this difference is huge so which is more correct?
Governments notoriously don’t like putting more money in their pension funds, so they estimate high numbers of growth; however is a 7.5% growth guestimate fair to the public or the employees who rely on the funds for retirement when the actual growth experience in the stock market since 2000 has been closer to 3.5%? No it isn’t.
In Ocean City our two public pension funds are said to be roughly 85% funded based on a 7.5% annual growth rate but be careful? If the actual growth is 3.5% are the public funds correct in stating they are 85% funded?
The Ocean City funds are approximately $114 Million in value. They would have to contribute approximately $4.5 million more annually if they assumed a 3.5% annual growth rate. This would be a big bite out of our annual budget. If true why is this being ignored? Do politicians simply not know about the overly optimistic growth assumptions they are using?
The Federal Courts have been unequivocal on this issue. Pension funds must be funded. It is arguably the only expense made on a local, county or state level that must be fully funded yet maybe the politicians merely do not care because the shortfalls occur in future years and are mostly invisible today.
What would happen if we in Ocean City, contrary to other governments, adopted a more conservative annual growth assumption of 3.5% for our pension funds? Two things, it would cost us about $4.5 million more a year straining the budget, and secondly it would reveal that our claimed level of funded pensions was significantly overstated and a more realistic number might be around 60% funded in ten years, and 50% funded in twenty, dramatically less than the numbers today, bloated by an unrealistic 7.5% annual growth assumption used by our government today.
Worcester County’s pension funds, which Ocean City is in inexorably tied to, are in much worse shape. The conundrum is a spike in taxes to increase funding could be self-defeating in that it might invite further property value declines reducing the taxable base further in future years. We have just sustained seven out of eight years of property declines. Nonetheless this is not a good reason for local governments to assume unrealistic growth rates that understate the annual contribution requirements and overstate the fully funded percentage giving taxpayers as well as pension holders a false sense of security in the future solvency of our pension funds.