Have Slurpee Bet
The Ocean City Council is living beyond its means and borrowing the difference. Last year the city’s debt rose $15 million. Councilmembers tell me this will continue because we are “rated AA”. However it is only a matter of time before the credit agencies downgrade the city’s credit rating.
On Jan. 10, 2013, I made a bet with Lloyd Martin, president of the council, that Ocean City’s “AA” credit rating would be downgraded this year. Loser buys the winner a Slurpee. Let me tell you why Lloyd will be buying me that Slurpee.
The current City Council has a history of pandering to the bloated city employee unions without concern for the outsized future obligations they have placed on the town. For example, the expense of public safety employees has grown 800% in a little over two decades, while summer visitors have only grown 10% and year around residents have declined. This criminal growth in expense is without merit and has outstripped the town’s ability to pay.
The council apparently doesn’t understand that it has a fiduciary duty to all the 22,000 taxpayers in the town of Ocean City, not just the 3,000 voters. It is critical that the council exercise good government practices and not take us down the road toward downgrade and bankruptcy as is occurring elsewhere. There have been 52 municipal bankruptcies since 1980 and 22 have occurred in the last two years. Some recent ones include Stockton, Calif., Harrisburg, Pa., Central Falls, RI., Jefferson County, Ala., and San Bernardino, Calif.
The small town of San Bernardino is being sued by the $240 billion, statewide pension fund, CALPERS, to put pension funds ahead of municipal bonds in bankruptcy. If CALPERS succeeds, every municipal bond in America will be downgraded, including the town of Ocean City.
Ocean City’s Mayor and City Council are well on their way to credit downgrade without help from CALPERS. Businesses are closing [Olive Tree] or leaving [La Hacienda Restaurant] due to the poor business environment in Ocean City. Looking up and down the town of Ocean City, you can see vacant rental spaces and view sparse new businesses. Why? Excessive taxes. Assessments have increased over 200% since 2003 [$3.6 billion to $10.4 billion], while property values are only up about 30% over the last decade. This is a staggering tax increase.
Also crippling Ocean City business is the unending barrage of laws, rules, ordinances, fines, fees and occupancy taxes instituted over the years. Despite sporting the ocean, the town of Ocean City continues to loose many businesses to West Ocean City and Ocean Pines. If the Mayor and Council want to save Ocean City from downgrade and bankruptcy, they will first stop making the business conditions worse.
Finally, there are disturbing omissions of known future expenses in the budget and provisions for expenses that will lead to much more debt than this council has acknowledged. This calls for prudent actions by rightsizing government and obtaining an immediate independent audit focused on protecting future solvency. Having employees fund their retirement is a step in the right direction.
It will not bring me any joy to beat Lloyd in our Slurpee bet, but this Council is spending money as if the rating agencies won’t notice. What side of the bet would you take?
The Worcester County Humane Society would like to take this opportunity to thank Madlyn and Billy Carder of BJ’s on the Water, their staff and all the patrons who showed up for their annual Christmas Party on Dec. 5, 2012.
Each year they collect donations for the shelter and in return patrons are treated to a delicious Christmas buffet dinner and wonderful entertainment by Teenage Rust and The Fabulous Rustettes.
We were again overwhelmed when the van arrived packed with food, toys, leashes, collars, blankets, treats, dog beds and litter as well as a large monetary donation.
If only our furry friends could speak, they too would say “thank you” to the Madlyn and Billy and all those in attendance.
(The writer is the director of the Worcester County Humane Society.)
I attended the OC Council work session on Jan. 15 and I can see why the council can get accused of spending taxpayers’ money wastefully.
On this day, there was a request from the OCDC, a non-profit, city-supported organized originally charged with the development and beautification of downtown Ocean City, to expand the size of the commercial bus stop on the corner of the “model street” at Somerset Street and Baltimore Ave.
The proposal was to enlarge the bus stop now being used by three private companies to bring and return visitors to the beach several times a day from the Francis Scott Key Motel and the campgrounds at Frontier Town and Castaways. The bus stop is also used by the city trolley to bring tourists to Ocean City for a fee.
The cost of this expansion of the bus stop to provide this very nice but free service mostly for select private companies located outside Ocean City and paying no taxes to the city would be $10,000 for site work and the loss of two parking spaces at the corner of these streets — the second busiest parking lot in Ocean City at an annual cost of $3,000 in lost city revenue.
The reason suggested for the change was that these visitors spend money shopping on Somerset Street and the Boardwalk. But a quick observation of the bus visitors shows that they have already purchased all that they need from stores that have been conveniently established at the bus location out of town.
A look at Somerset Street reveals that there are two bicycle rental stores and a Segway store that are open only in the morning. The only other store was a variety store, which was not helped by the buses and went out of business and a short-lived consignment store that also was not helped. Fortunately, a few councilmen and women and some in the audience picked up on the lack of information presented by OCDC and the proposal was set aside for further review.
It never ceases to amaze me about how generous our community is. The Worcester County Humane Society and our four legged friends are never forgotten during the Holiday season. Both the business community and the residential community joined together to make this a Merry Christmas for our animals!
We would like to thank BJs for making us the benefactor of their annual Christmas party. The generous donations of the community filled our food closet.
Harborside Bar & Grill graciously hosted our 1st Annual Raffle Drawing Party. Food was generously donated from area restaurants including: Adolfo’s, Crab Alley, Greene Turtle West, Hooters West, the Marlin Club, Liquid Assets, Lombardi’s West, Southside Deli, Station 7, Superfresh, 45th St. Taphouse, Wawa, and Desserts by Melanie. Prizes were also donated by: Bliss Salon, Blue Ox, The Original Greene Turtle, Carrabbas, Fager’s Island, Fox Theatres, Furious Fitness, Grotto Pizza, Harvest Moon Cafe, Holiday Inn, Kirby’s Pub, Kirby’s Red Onion, Panera Bread, Paws & Claws, Pit & Pub, Powerhouse Gym, Raggamuffin Boutique, Shore Breeze Cleaning Service, and Victorian Charm. We would also like to thank ABC Printers, Great Scott Broadcasting, and Kendall Furnishings for helping to get the word out about this fun event.
The annual raffle drawing party was held to select the winner of the Humane Society Big Raffle. Prizes were $3,000, $1,500 and $500. Special thanks to Wal-Mart and Seacrets who allowed us to sell the tickets at their venues. Watch for our 2013 Big Raffle.
A heartfelt “thank you” to all who support our no kill shelter throughout the year, whether it is by donating food or supplies, attending our benefits, purchasing raffle tickets, or volunteering your services. It is always appreciated.
Gina Castagna, Sandy Summers and Vonnie Baker on behalf of the Ocean City Humane Society Employees, Volunteers and Animals.