Schools, Parents Make Right Choices
Would you feel like a responsible parent if you sent your precious child, pre-teen or teen off to school in the middle of a worldwide pandemic with the dire prognosis of it getting worse in the fall when the school year usually begins?
What about your neighbor’s children, or the children of other family members and friends that are facing the same decisions of whether to send their children back to school in the fall amidst one of the deadliest pandemics that we’ve had to face within our lifetime?
Does your heartfelt empathy go out to them as well?
And how do you feel, knowing that most schools will not receive any additional funding unless they open their doors in the fall, forcing parents and schools to choose between the welfare of the children, or the economic benefits of receiving desperately needed funds for teachers, supplies, programs, etc.
Parents should not be forced to be “Hansel and Gretel” parents, leading their helpless and trusting children out into a pandemic wilderness to meet their grime fate.
Many schools are planning to open with online classes, as dictated by common sense and science. The probability of budget concerns and not being able to adequately prepare and execute the extensive precautionary measures that would have been necessary to ensure the safety of students was most likely another important factor in the decision to go with online classes.
We are thankful that schools and teachers have decided not to play the “Hansel and Gretel” deadly game of forfeiting our children’s welfare in exchange for short term economic gains.
We salute and congratulate our teachers and school systems for making the right choice.
On July 18, people gathered “virtually” for the 12th Jesse’s Paddle, a fundraiser to support the Jesse Klump Suicide Awareness & Prevention Program and the Jesse Klump Memorial Scholarship. We usually host 150-plus guests on the Pocomoke River for a day to celebrate life, but the pandemic prevented us from doing so this year.
We had no idea what to expect. Would our supporters join us on social media? Would the online silent auction, the online kayak raffle, and the online donations tab substitute for the many hugs and well wishes we enjoy at the river’s edge in Snow Hill?
The community responded in astounding numbers, an outpouring of generosity and love. From as far away as Austin, Atlanta and Barcelona people sent photos and videos of the day’s outdoor activities, live concerts, and messages of hope and caring. We exceeded our fundraising goal of $20,000, donations which will be largely invested in suicide prevention education in this time of unparalleled crisis.
I speak for our board, our staff, our volunteers and those whom we serve when I say how truly grateful we are. The donations are wonderful, but as important is the affirmation that our work is valued and necessary that the gifts represent. To the entire community, we are overwhelmed by your generosity.
Kim A. Klump
(The writer is the president of The Jesse Klump Memorial Fund, Inc.)
Benefit Support Appreciated
The arts are alive and well in Ocean City. The Art League’s online “100 Pieces of heART” Benefit Auction ended Aug. 1 and raised more than $12,000 to support our nonprofit programs. We are overwhelmed by the magnanimity of our community.
Thank you to the multitude of artists who so generously donated work to the auction. Artists are the heart of our organization, and it is their dedication and enthusiasm for their craft that keeps the Art League and the Ocean City Center for the Arts open and free for all.
Our appreciation also goes out to those who bid and won an original work of art. Bids came in from all over area and beyond, and got very competitive in some cases. We are so grateful for everyone’s support and very encouraged that art is still a light for many in these uncertain times. Thank you.
(The writer is the executive director of the Art League of Ocean City.)
City’s Campus Plan Has Cost Taxpayers
On July 3, 2020, OC Today, published an article entitled “DPW campus facility project ahead of schedule by month” by Josh Kim. Josh had interviewed Hal Adkins, Director of Public Works, about the progress being made at the “Campus Plan” at 65th Street. I read in the article that “…Adkins said the city did not pay single dime for transit-related portions of the project – aka the bus barn, bus fuel depot, driver/administrative building, etc.” I do not accept the fact that the town has not spent a single dime on transit related portions of the Campus Plan Project.
What had been reported as a $25 million project has actually cost the federal, state and Town of Ocean City over $36.8 million. What had been reported as costing the Town $11 million for the project, has really cost the town over $18.9 million.
In 2010, the town went to the bond market to purchase property behind the 64th Street Shopping Center for $5 million. Interest paid on that bond to date is in excess of $2 million. As part of the Campus Plan the town has constructed a Surface Parking Lot on that property with a 50%/50% cost share with the Maryland Transportation Administration (MTA). The combined $7 million for the land alone is a lot more than a “single dime”.
In order to qualify for Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) pass thru funding administered by the MTA, there has to be a local match, usually about 10% of the total cost of the project. The town was able to establish that the value of the land on which the transit funded structures sit qualifies as a “Soft Match”. A Soft Match is a concept whereby the FTA allows you to put up a non-cash contribution such as the value of the land as your required match. There are six specific parcels of land on which these federally funded projects will sit encompassing 155,724 square feet or the equivalent of 3.57 acres, and valued at $3,916,474. This land value is well over 10% of the federal funds being spent on the transit upgrades.
When you have to put up the value of your land and restrict its use, that is the same as putting up money. Considering the fact that these town parcels are now dedicated to transit projects and their uses are severely restricted to transportation, how is it that the town has not put up a “single dime”?
When you add the $11.7 million spent to date by the town on the Campus Plan to the $7 million paid to date for the parking lot property and you add in the value of the land dedicated to transit related projects in excess of $3.9 million, you realize that the town really has over $22.6 million invested in the Campus Plan. Again, I submit that it is a lot more than a “single dime.”
Vincent dePaul Gisriel, Jr.
Watch Income Tax Rate
It looks like the Worcester County Commissioners have found the goose that can lay the golden egg to get more money from the taxpayers with little public opposition. In this situation, the golden egg is the local tax rate applied to income made by residents who live or work in the Worcester County.
Maryland’s individual income tax system is comprised of a state component and a county component. For 2000 to 2015, the Worcester County tax rate was 1.25%. This percentage generally resulted in Worcester County obtaining yearly revenue of $13.6 million. In 2016, recognizing that the Worcester County had not been raised in years, the Commissioners increased the local tax rate to 1.75%. This increase resulted in the County obtaining $22.5 million.
Finding little opposition to increasing the local tax rate, in the budget for 2021, the commissioners set the Worcester County tax rate to 2.25%. This increase is estimated to bring in $26.5 million. In a period of six years the county commissioners have increased the local tax rate from 1.25% to 2.25% or an 80 percent increase.
What is amazing about this whole process is that the commissioners are approving the increases with very little public opposition. One reason could be that the Worcester County and Maryland tax are collected throughout the year by payroll deduction. Since the money is withheld from a pay check, many people never pay attention to the full amount collected during the year. If taxpayers had to make one large payment, such as payment of their property tax, they would easily know the total amount they were paying to the County for income taxes.
With such information, we may have the same demonstrations that show up in Snow Hill when the commissioners propose a small property tax increase.
I urge all Worcester County residents to monitor Commissioner meetings and voice their opposition to any increase in the Worcester County income tax rate.