OPA Officials Hold Budget Public Hearing

OCEAN PINES – A review of the association’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 highlighted a public hearing this week.

On Tuesday, Ocean Pines Association General Manager John Viola presented community members with the recommended fiscal year 2022-2023 budget. The coming year’s spending plan – revised after a series of meetings with the association’s Budget & Finance Committee and Board of Directors – proposes total revenues of $16,408,684 and expenditures of the same.

“We went through everything and took their guidance into account,” Viola said. “So today what we are going to do is present the budget to the association and answer any questions … along with our analysis and presentation.”

Viola acknowledged the association would have to account for insurance premiums, minimum wage increases and inflation in the coming year. Other challenges, he added, included “mark to market” adjustments for certain positions.

“Especially in this environment – regional and national, not just local – companies or homeowners associations or corporations have had trouble filling positions, especially in the salary range that we have …,” he explained. “We will need to pay to try and get the talent.”

Viola noted, however, that the association continued to see improved amenity performance and revenue growth. As a result, officials propose using $450,000 in surplus to reduce assessments by $71. The waterfront lot differential of $615 would not change.

“It’s taking what surplus we’ve realized … and utilizing that,” he said.

In total, Viola noted the association has recognized a $1.19 million surplus from the prior fiscal year. In addition to a one-time assessment reduction, he proposed using $350,000 in surplus to replenish the roads reserve fund and $60,000 in surplus for the association’s T-docks project.

“The bottom line is that surplus will have a positive effect on your assessment this year,” he said, “and a positive effect on our reserves, as well as helping to pay for the T-docks.”

Viola added that the proposed budget also recommended price increases for the association’s amenities, including golf, aquatics, beach parking, racquet sports, and recreation and parks.

“Basically, across the board, in every amenity we have growth,” he said. “Now we are recommending price increases … That has a decrease on the assessment.”

Tuesday’s public hearing also included a review of notable budget changes, including a $267,000 increase in wages and salaries and a $10,000 reduction in legal fees, among other things.

“Legal fees have been going up,” Viola said. “We did review it … and we believe we can reduce it by $10,000 or reallocate it to the election and referendum expenses we believe will possibly increase this year.”

Viola also presented association members with the contribution schedule for the association’s general placement reserve fund.

“We’ve pushed back the irrigation system at least one year,” he added. “So that will help us to get into that favorability, along with the surpluses that we are generating this year.”

In a review of each department’s budget, Finance Director Steve Phillips pointed out that compensation changes and other requests had resulted in a $319,000 increase in the fire department’s budget.

“There’s about a $250,000 increase in compensation,” he said. “That’s the main driver there.”

He also highlighted a $50,000 increase in the police department budget.

“We have salary increases in there,” he said. “We also have the body camera contract. That’s something that’s on the horizon, and it’s built into the last four months of the year. It’s basically a lease agreement.”

Lastly, officials this week reviewed the association’s reserves and capital items, which includes $125,000 for renovations to the administration building.

A copy of the association’s proposed budget has been made available at oceanpines.org.

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.