Ocean Pines Budget Proposes Assessment Reduction

OCEAN PINES – Association members could see another assessment reduction in the coming fiscal year.

This month, the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) released its preliminary budget for fiscal year 2023-2024.

The spending plan proposes police department incentives, increases in payroll and benefits and a $21 assessment reduction for non-waterfront lots.

“The main component of this decrease was the ‘true-up’ component, reflecting realized favorability from the prior year and as reported during the monthly [general manager] reports,” the budget summary reads.

Last February, the OPA Board of Directors voted unanimously to adopt an annual budget with a $100 reduction in assessments for non-waterfront lots.

The decrease – only the second reported in the association’s history – was the result of a $650,000 budget surplus.

Continuing that trend, officials submitted a proposed budget this month that calls for another assessment reduction in the coming fiscal year.

The proposed assessment rates include $875 for non-waterfront lots, $1,313 for non-waterfront estate lots, $1,490 for waterfront lots, $2,235 for waterfront estate lots, $965 for waterfront non-bulkhead lots and $1,448 for waterfront non-bulkhead estate lots.

In total, the proposed spending plan reflects total revenues and operating expenses of $14.45 million, bulkhead replacement expenses of $1.15 million, and capital expenditures of $1.02 million.

“The operational departments and amenities saw increases in payroll and benefits, reflecting a statutory wage increase, wage inflation, and the continued increased cost of benefits,” the budget summary reads. “The amenities, led by Golf, continue to show organic growth in revenue, but also reflect price increases as recommended by the Strategic Planning Committee’s guidance.”

It continues, “Within the assessment is a continued increase in infrastructure spending for roads, drainage, mailboxes, deferred maintenance, and new capital project(s) and initiatives.”

The proposed budget also reflects an increase within the aquatics department in an attempt to fill vacant lifeguard positions, as well as an increase in the police department’s 401(k) benefits and salaries.

“Reallocation of prior efficiencies have been allocated to the Police Department to continue to fund the ‘Take Home Car Program,’” the summary reads. “The proposed budget also includes an increase in the police 401(k) benefit contribution and increased salary adjustments, all to help retain and recruit officers.”

Officials say they also continue to review the association’s reserve study, which recommends the necessary level of replacement reserves the community needs based on assets such as buildings, equipment and fixtures.

In this week’s meeting of the Ocean Pines Budget and Finance Committee, Senior Executive Office Manager Linda Martin noted that the reserve schedule for the coming five years had been updated in recent weeks.

“Changes were based on an analysis from department heads and the life expectancies that could be pushed further out,” she said.

Martin explained the timeline for both a golf cart replacement project and administrative building improvements had moved from 2023 and 2025, respectively, to 2022. However, an irrigation project at the golf club had to be pushed back from 2022 to 2024.

“That was a big hit,” she said.

Next week, the association will kick off its annual review of the proposed budget. The budget and finance committee will hold a review Jan. 4-6, while the board of directors will hold a review Jan. 18-19.

The association’s fiscal year begins on May 1 of each year and ends on April 30 of the next calendar year.

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.