Ocean City News in Brief
OCEAN CITY- In the briefs this week, the convention center director search is coming close to an end, an alternate moves up to board member, and the budget update confirms a job well done from a financial standpoint.
Budget Surplus Puts Town in 'Great Position' For Next Year
It's been widely reported that the town saved $2.7 million in budget cuts last year, and that trimming of the proverbial 'low hanging fruit' as City Manager Dennis Dare so aptly put, has put the town of Ocean City in a very good position to ride out the next few years of expected downturn as far as assessments go.
Property assessments go on a three year cycle, and after a decrease in assessments by $1.1 billion, the town braced for three years of lesser tax revenue brought into the town, which is a vital component, as property taxes make up 58-percent of the town's income, according to Finance Administrator Martha Lucey's report to the Mayor and City Council this week.
The town's $2.7 million surplus puts the town in the forefront, certainly when compared to many of the other tourism destinations on the Eastern Seaboard, and even though no one in the town's hierarchy is hinting that the tough times have come and gone, the report should reassure visitors and residents of Ocean City that the town did a good job at preparing for the storm.
'This puts us in a very good position for any shortfalls that may come up in the next two years,' said Budget Manager Jennie Knapp. 'We are on the right path and should be on the lookout for the first budget amendment in the next month or so that will even further validate that.'
What Knapp could be referring to is the refunding of the $500,000 that was used from the employee pension fund to trim down the property tax rate to 39.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation this spring during the budget process.
Council has said that the first $500,000 that it saves in this budget year, will go directly to replenishing what it essentially borrowed from that fund.
Convention Center Director Search Nearing End
City Manager Dennis Dare says the town is getting very close to naming a new Convention Center Director, which has been vacant for several months since the resignation of former center director and tourism director Mike Noah in April.
Dare says the list of finalists had been narrowed to three, but he received word this week that one of the finalists was out of the running as they had accepted a job at another convention center.
As a result, the list of finalists for the job, which has been handled on an interim basis by Wayne Prior at the convention center, and totally absorbed by former assistant tourism director Deb Turk, who assumed all Noah's duties as tourism director.
The town decided to seek out applicants who had expertise in running a convention center, essentially feeling comfortable with Turk's work enough to let her handle all the tasks that Noah did as tourism director.
The decision could come as soon as the next week or so, as one council member hinted that they thought that Dennis was bringing a recommendation to an upcoming closed session meeting at City Hall.
Despite the approved expansion (on the town level) of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center being held up at the state level awaiting final concurrence with the town's partners the Maryland Stadium Authority, getting Noah's position filled has been a high priority in recent months, and that search appears to be nearing its end.
Dare also pointed out another interesting factoid he found while searching for a new center director.
'Technology now plays a big part in how and what we do, said Dare; 'For example, ad agencies monitor local news outlets and decide if they should propose or not. Convention Center Directors do the same. Back in the day, applicants would visit a town and talk to people at dinner about the politics involved or perhaps read a few back issues at the library before they decided to apply or propose but nowadays applicants can get much more information (about the town's they are applying to) from online sources instantly.'
Hickman Sworn in, More Appointees to BZA on the Horizon
With the recent shakeup on the town's Board of Zoning Appeals roster, Mayor Rick Meehan is continuing his search for new members to fill the two remaining alternate spots on that board.
Twelve-year veteran and chairperson Susan Davis, and Jeff Thaler, who had served on the BZA for 19 years both stepped down several weeks ago on the same evening, vacating two of the five full-time seats on the board.
As a result of their resignation, Lanny Hickman was sworn in on Monday night at City Hall by Meehan and will now become a full time boardmember. Meanwhile, Dean Langrell is alleged to be soon to follow, also stepping up from his current alternate position, to fill Thaler's position, according to Meehan.
The mayor says that he has some names in mind to fill the vacated alternate spots, and will be bringing those names to the City Council for approval in upcoming weeks.