Latest Ocean City Municipal Budget Calls for 3.31 Percent Tax Increase

May 2, 2021 ajmyekgw

first_imgCity Hall in Ocean CityCity Council voted unanimously Thursday to introduce a $73.1 million budget that asks Ocean City taxpayers for 3.31 percent more than they paid last year.The news got worse since Mayor Jay Gillian’s administration provided a first draft of the budget to the council in FebruaryThat first budget proposed a tax levy of $45,894,838, which already was a 2.46 percent increase over 2014. But the latest budget increases the local tax levy by about another $380,000 to $46,275,000.A decrease ($176,000) in the anticipated return to taxpayers from the Ocean City Free Public Library budget and the replacement of two police cars ($80,000) were the biggest changes in the last month that affect the tax levy.The net effect to taxpayers is a 2.16 percent increase in the tax rate. The owner of a $500,000 home can expect to pay an additional $43.25 for the municipal portion of their 2015 tax bill under the introduced budget.City Council is expected to make its changes to the budget and likely will hold a public hearing and final vote on April 23.The town benefits this year from a $114.8 million increase in the ratable base — with more real estate to tax, the impact on individual property owners is moderated.As Ocean City resident Michael Hinchman put it, “Ocean City has the wind at its back.”Hinchman said Ocean City’s $11.3 billion ratable base affords the municipality opportunities other towns don’t have, and he urged greater scrutiny and accountability in each area of the budget.The overall budget of $73,134,639 is up by 4.27 percent from 2014. But that figure is affected by one-time grants and reimbursements, such as $1,241,000 in New Jersey Historic Trust grants (for City Hall, the Transportation Center and the U.S. Life Saving Station at Fourth and Atlantic) and a $950,000 reimbursement from FEMA for Superstorm Sandy damage.Salaries and wages covering 258 full-time employees account for $29.6 million in the budget. This figure represents a $914,000 increase over 2014, mostly due to scheduled increases within contracts.The city payroll hit a high of 297 full-time employees within the last decade and bottomed out a few years ago at 250.Councilman Keith Hartzell said the full-time head count had exceeded 261 at one point this year, and he said at the time, “I will not move this budget if that number doesn’t get reduced.”But most of the discussion on Thursday night focused on “cost centers,” such as the Aquatics and Fitness Center, Municipal Golf Course and Ocean City Pops Orchestra.After a recess in the public meeting, in which just fewer than a quorum seemed to disappear to powwow, council members returned with questions for Finance Director Frank Donato about where in the budget to find line items related to the cost centers.Council members were careful not to specify any specific cost center, but they seemed particular interested in the Ocean City Pops, which according to recent reports, has lost more than $300,000 in some recent years.Donato did not have specifics at hand, but he estimated the city foots the bill for about $260,000 in salaries for the orchestra.Because of various exemptions in the formula, Ocean City falls well under the 2 percent tax levy cap, according to Donato.See full budget detail below.Download (PDF, 3.25MB)last_img

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