In the early budget process, the Worcester County Commissioners annually face a vast disparity between revenues and expenditures. This year it’s about an $11 million gap with general fund revenue at $218 million (including a bump of $4.1 million in property tax revenue due to rising land values) and requested expenditures from all departments totaling $229 million.
Rather than make the cuts themselves, the commissioners voted unanimously last week to have the county departments take another look at their respective budget and make their own reductions with the realization decreases must occur. The concept is department heads must realize they will not get everything they have requested because the county is not going to raise property taxes to bring in additional revenues.
Thought not a novel approach, it’s smart for the commissioners to let the folks who are asking for additional funds decide what they can live without. It’s a normal process for private businesses to decide what’s essential and what’s not. In all reality, it should be a simple exercise for county officials. It’s understandable to outline all needs in an initial budget request but also a reasonable expectation to realize not everything will ever be funded. Letting the askers – the departments in this case – weigh their own priorities and return with reduced budgets is a solid approach.
Ocean City officials have a decision to make – return the Boardwalk tram to its traditional 10 a.m. start time or stay with last summer’s noon beginning? It’s not a simple matter and bicycles are involved in the call.
When Ocean City went with the noon start time last summer, the city voted to allow bikes on the boards until noon, from the typical 11 a.m. Two summers ago, when the tram service was suspended due to the pandemic, bikes were allowed until 2 p.m. This is an interesting decision, and Mayor Rick Meehan clearly wants to see noon again be the tram start time and bike stop time.
The full Mayor and Council will ultimately decide this summer’s direction after reviewing the transportation committee’s recommendation. With a driver shortage not expected to be the huge challenge it was last summer, city staff seemed to be leaning toward returning to a tram start time of 10 a.m. with bikes stopping at the traditional 11 a.m., while elected officials, led by Meehan, preferred keeping the same hours of last summer (noon start time for tram and stop time for bikes).
This decision will ultimately come down to weighing revenue loss vs. saved expenditures with the service reduction, but a contributing factor here should be the enjoyment of biking on the Boardwalk. Allowing bikers an extra hour surely helps the bike rental shops, but it also spreads out the crowds a bit during the height of the season. Biking on the Boardwalk is a lovely experience for everyone with tremendous views, especially those who don’t get to do it but once a year on vacation. My vote would be keep with the extra hour for at least another summer and evaluate it again after the season, which hopefully will be more normal in all aspects. A future compromise could be 11 a.m. on the weekends and noon on the weekdays.
Not an avid American Idol watcher, but I had to tune in this week to see Salisbury’s own Jay Copeland wow the judges. Copeland, who graduated from Salisbury University in 2020, is well known in Salisbury and has been a rising star since he was young student in the local public school system. In fact, he appeared on WBOC’s Delmarva Life a couple times as a kid and dazzled at James M. Bennett High School’s yearly Rock & Roll Revival shows. Big things were forecasted for the young man and it appears he could be getting his big break. The American Idol judges gushed over him and gave him one of only three platinum passes, meaning he advances deep into the competition automatically.
In a press release issued by SU this week, Copeland said, “Singing in front of [judges] Katy Perry, legendary Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan was an eye-opener for me not as an artist, but as a person. It showed me that I truly can do anything I set my mind, body and spirit to. Before entering the room, I prayed to God, telling him that if he didn’t do anything else for me, that this was enough. I honestly couldn’t believe, after everything I went through in those two short months back in the fall of 2021, that I would be singing in front of three celebrity judges. However, when I walked into the room, I made sure I remained true to who I was and who I am. I walked into the room as myself and no one else. The three of them were simply amazing. They began with small talk as if we had met before. Once it was time to sing, I gave it all I had.”
It’s impossible to not be rooting for this charismatic young man. One of his biggest supporters is SU Associate Professor of Music Dr. John Wesley Wright, who believes Copeland’s versatility makes him a true contender. “I believe Jay has an exceptional chance of going deep on American Idol and even walking away as the winner,” said Wright “Why? Because Jay is smart, astute and understands the true meaning of stylistic integrity. He knows how to turn a phrase in the styles he’s more familiar with, like gospel, pop and Broadway, then can turn around and deliver a country song – convincingly! And all from the heart.”