OCEAN PINES – Candidates for the Ocean Pines Association’s board of directors shared their views on transparency, budget expenditures and other topics at a forum this week.
On Wednesday, six of the seven candidates running in this year’s Ocean Pines Association board election participated in a forum at the Ocean Pines Community Center.
This year, seven candidates – Tom Janasek, Larry Perrone, Camilla Rogers, Paula Gray, Shawn Kotwica, Edward Solum and Gregory Turner – will vie for three board positions, all of which are three-year terms.
Candidates had an opportunity this week to share their views on matters ranging from budget expenditures to stormwater management. All but Solum attended the forum.
When asked how they would contribute to sound financial management and transparency in light of a recently released forensic audit, Janasek said he would like to see the association implement recommendations in the audit.
“I didn’t feel it was the right thing to do a $200,000 forensic audit,” he said. “But after reading through it, there’s a lot of really good information in there.”
Gray said she supported detailed monthly budget reports, while Rogers suggested focus groups to promote transparency and fiscal responsibility.
“Fiscal responsibility has to be our major target,” she said, “and we are moving in a very positive direction.”
Turner elaborated the need for improved budget oversight, while Kotwica suggested the association could do a better job at presenting the budget.
“When you say ‘comparable to budget,’ that is not exactly what’s coming in and out,” he said. “We state that the Yacht Club is in the black. But if you look at it thoroughly, you see it is not in the black after bonuses were paid.”
Perrone said he would contribute to the proactive efforts that have taken place before and after the forensic audit was released.
Candidates also argued against the imposition of fines for homeowners who violate the association’s declaration of restrictions and offered their opinions on ways to control and reduce budget expenditures.
Gray said controlling expenditures begins with the departments and committees.
“We need to know who these committees are, we need to know who these departments are, and we need an oversight process so when they are submitting their expenses, we know about what they say they need before the budget is passed,” she said, “not finding a way to reduce it when it becomes law.”
Kotwica and Turner said the association should focus on maintaining infrastructure. Janasek argued for some departmental budget cuts and financial accountability.
“There’s a lot of money going around that’s not accounted for …,” he said. “To me that’s something that has to be looked into, and we have to have a checks and balances system for all the money going out of the Pines.”
Perrone, however, noted the association’s efforts to reduce expenses and balance the budget.
“People aren’t just spending money all over the place for nothing,” he said. “We are spending it like it’s our own money.”
Rogers said the association can control spending by following a strategic plan and implementing employee evaluations. Currently, salaries and benefits make up roughly 42% of the budget.
“One of the places we need to control the outflow of money is through our salaries,” she said. “We have to make sure they are fair and equitable. We want to keep a stable workforce. But one thing we don’t have here are competency-based evaluations.”
Candidates were also asked if they would support a change in the bylaws for project spending. Currently, the bylaws allow the board, through a referendum, to commit 20% of annual assessment revenue to projects. There has been some interest, however, in lowering that amount to $1 million.
Kotwica and Turner said they would support a change in the bylaws to reduce the spending threshold.
“It should go to a referendum to the community …,” Turner said, “so people will know exactly what they are getting, exactly what they are paying for.”
Janasek, Perrone and Rogers, however, disagreed.
“I hate to see ourselves get wrapped around referendums that have to be continuously voted on,” Rogers said.
Janasek said aside from the country club and administrative building, he did not foresee any major capital expenditures in the coming years.
“If we can put together a maintenance plan for all these brand-new buildings we have … I think we can upkeep these buildings and not ever have to spend 20% of our assessments,” he said.
A second candidate forum will be held on June 22 at 10 a.m. at the Ocean Pines Community Center. Ballots will be mailed out the week of July 8.