Ocean Pines Budget Approved With $10 Assessment Jump

OCEAN PINES – Ocean Pines Association officials approved the annual budget for fiscal year 2021-2022 late last week.

Last Saturday, the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors voted 6-1, with Director Tom Janasek opposed, to approve the budget for fiscal year 2021-2022.

The association’s spending plan includes an annual assessment of $996. While officials initially proposed a $35 increase in yearly dues, Board President Larry Perrone said changes in health insurance premiums and the removal of salaries and benefits associated with the amenities and operational logistics director position had lowered that increase to $10.

“First off, with the departure of Colby Phillips, the salary and benefits were budgeted for next year,” he said. “Those costs have been removed from the budget, as well as a reduction in our premiums from our health care carrier that provides coverage for our employees.”

When asked if the association would fill the vacancy created by Phillips’ resignation, Perrone said it was a decision for General Manager John Viola.

“I know at this point he has spread some of the duties she had to other individuals,” Perrone said. “I think that’s where it’s going to be for the time being.”

The fiscal year 2021-2022 budget includes total revenues of $15,956,299 and operating expenses of $13,024,180, according to Director Doug Parks, the association’s treasurer. Bulkhead and drainage repairs for the coming year total $1,368,221, while capital expenditures total $1,047,970.

“The budget has gone through a review by the GM and his team, by the budget and finance committee and by the board of directors,” he said. “The budget was posted on the OPA website for review by the membership. A public meeting was held on February 6 to present the budget to the membership and have an open discussion with the membership to address any questions or concerns.”

Parks told community members last week the association anticipated an operating surplus for the current fiscal year. He said that money would be set aside in a retained earnings account.

“Some people believe that since the surplus is there, it should be applied as a method in reducing the assessment. Unfortunately, the idea is it doesn’t really work that way …,” he said. “Retained earnings allows us the flexibility to address any issues that may be out of our control due to COVID restrictions continuing through the upcoming fiscal year.”

Officials also applauded association staff for making last-minute changes that resulted in budget savings.

“I think this budget has been put together in a very concise manner,” Director Frank Daly said.

Janasek, however, said he could not vote to approve the budget.

“Unfortunately, there’s been so many changes to this literally in the last 24 hours I haven’t really been able to review them all,” he said. “I looked through them, but I’m just not comfortable at this time voting to approve the budget.”

In his comments to the board, Viola said the coming year’s budget would eliminate a roughly $1.6 million deficit, which would not need to be covered with assessments.

“Over the last three years, our team, along with this board, inherited somewhere around $1.6 million of deficit,” he said. “With this budget … that deficit is going to be wiped out.”

Perrone added that while salaries had increased for the coming year’s budget, it was a result of state-mandated minimum hourly wage increases. He also pointed out that money was being set aside in the association’s replacement reserve account for future capital projects.

“The method to keep assessments low in the past has been to avoid putting money into our replacement reserves and, on top of that, not doing the appropriate maintenance on the buildings that we have …,” he said. “This idea that we should not be putting money away for the future is what got us into trouble in the past and I know this board and the prior board did not agree with that approach.”

After further discussion, the board voted 6-1 to approve the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.