Ocean City Officials Make Annual Budget Pitch To County

SNOW HILL – Ocean City officials presented the Worcester County Commissioners with a request for increased funding this week.

Like the municipalities that presented their budget requests earlier this month, Ocean City has requested additional funding from Worcester County this year as the commissioners begin the annual budget process. Mayor Rick Meehan said it was critical that the resort increase marketing as more and more hotel rooms were added in West Ocean City.

“The status quo isn’t going to work as we move forward,” he said.

Meehan thanked the commissioners for last year’s increase in funding but said that the resort was requesting a 2.5 percent increase in its unrestricted grant in the coming fiscal year as well as a $200,000 increase in tourism funding. He said it would be used for destination marketing.

“If you look at the number of hotel rooms in West Ocean City, that number has increased dramatically,” Meehan said. “Pretty soon it’s going to be over 700. This will not only increase the amount of room tax received by the county, but it also increases the need for additional marketing to fill these rooms. It’s the town of Ocean City that does the heavy lifting to promote and advertise Ocean City.”

He pointed out that Ocean City’s 21842 zip code also included West Ocean City.

“With an additional 700 rooms that means even more visitors that we have to attract,” he said.

He added that proper marketing would benefit every aspect of the local economy.

“With the increasing number of businesses as well we need to have the people here to sustain that,” he said.

Meehan also asked county officials to reconsider the administrative fees charged to the resort. Currently, the county charges Ocean City 1 percent of the room tax collected and 5 percent of the food tax collected for administering the collections. That results in $232,339 in county revenue.

Meehan said county staff told him it didn’t cost that much to administer the tax. He suggests the county drop its administrative fee to .5 percent for room tax and 2.5 percent for food tax.

Furthermore, he suggested the county authorize the resort to collect the room and food tax.

“We discovered that the program currently in place to track information and to provide a method to collect past due accounts is outdated and inadequate,” he said. “You can’t run a program today that will tell us cumulatively if somebody hasn’t paid their room tax or food tax. We can’t go back and try to collect it because we don’t know who hasn’t paid it. That’s created I think a loss of revenue for Ocean City.”

“I really believe in the long run if we are the agent of the county to collect that tax, it’ll work better for everybody,” he said.

Ocean City Fire Chief Chris Larmore spoke to the commissioners about the growing EMS costs faced by the town as it worked to provide service to both Ocean City and West Ocean City. He said the increased commercial activity in West Ocean City was increasing EMS calls, which was having an impact on Ocean City.

“What’s very unique is that over 40 percent of the time that we have been out of units in Ocean City is a result of call volume in West Ocean City,” he said. “What’s happened is without us being able to increase staff the increased demand in West Ocean City really is becoming a hindrance to the service we provide in Ocean City.”

Larmore asked the commissioners to adjust the county’s fire company funding formula to provide fire companies countywide with more money for EMS services.

Ocean City officials also asked the county to provide $80,000 for the purchase of new pagers for its fire fighters.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.