SNOW HILL – Following a decision by county leaders not to consider Ocean City’s request for a tax differential, the resort is seeking an increase in its annual grant from Worcester County.
On Tuesday Mayor Rick Meehan presented the Worcester County Commissioners with a FY2018 budget request of $3,646,524. That amount represents a 4.75 percent increase in the resort’s undesignated grant as well as funding for a trio of special projects.
Meehan said that while the long sought tax differential was still Ocean City’s goal, it was not the subject of Tuesday’s presentation.
“We come here in peace,” he said.
Meehan said Ocean City was asking for a 4.75-percent increase ($114,568) in its undesignated grant to reflect increases in property, transfer and recordation taxes. The resort did not seek increases in the areas of tourism, recreation, convention bureau or park and ride.
Meehan said municipal officials did however have three project-specific funding requests for the coming fiscal year. He said the resort was seeking $100,000 to develop a master plan and design for the skate park in Ocean City. Meehan pointed out that in a recent meeting regarding the park, more than 50 percent of those in attendance were not Ocean City residents. He added that the resort hadn’t received any of the county’s Program Open Space funds since 2014.
Meehan said Ocean City was also requesting funding to provide the resort’s volunteer firefighters with handheld radios. The initiative is expected to cost $331,000 and Ocean City is asking the county to fund half of that.
“We understand the county does provide radios to volunteers in other parts of the county,” Meehan said.
The third project-specific funding request Ocean City presented was for $100,000 to go toward developing a design for a new Fire Station 3. Meehan said the existing station at 74th Street was inadequate and that there were plans to move it to 65th Street.
“The station is antiquated and no longer meets the needs of the department or the equipment,” he said.
Ocean City Fire Chief Chris Larmore explained that by moving the station to 65th Street, the fire department would be able to expand its live-in program. He said the program, which provides volunteer firefighters living space at the department in exchange for working hours equal to an employee, has been successful and even had a waiting list.
“Look at it as an investment,” Larmore said.
He added that by relocating Fire Station 3 to 65th Street firefighters there could easily respond to emergencies beyond Ocean City by traveling on Route 90.
Meehan urged the commissioners to consider funding for each of the additional requests.
“We thought they were tangible. We thought they were needed,” he said. “The issue of a tax differential is still very important but the proposals we made today help close that gap,” Meehan said.
The commissioners are expected to begin reviewing the county’s proposed FY2018 budget later this month. The final budget is typically adopted in early June.