Ocean City Today

County gov’t grants OC less than hoped for

Resort, towns to get more unrestricted funding, but not at tax differential levels
By Brian Gilliland | May 11, 2017

(May 12, 2017) Last week, Ocean City Manager Doug Miller said the resort was waiting to see if the county government would send the resort $3 million in grants or $7 million in grants before tapping into a $50,000 war chest to pursue legal remedies in the ongoing dispute over a possible tax differential.

This week the resort has an answer, of sorts. The commissioners approved sending Ocean City about $3.35 million, down from a request of $3.65 million. The budget has not yet been formally adopted, which is expected during the county’s June 6 meeting.

“I think the budget is probably finalized,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic, Ocean City’s representative on the county board, said. “I know if I was sitting on the OC council, I’d be upset.”

There are four main differences between the resort’s request and what the commissioners have right now in the proposed budget.

First, Ocean City requested a 4.75 percent increase to its unrestricted grant, which is how the county handles revenue sharing with the municipalities. The city can spend this money however it wants.

A committee of county staff made up of County Administrator Harold Higgins, Treasurer Phil Thompson and Budget Manager Kathy Whited zeroed out that amount. The commissioners could have added it back in during its work session on Tuesday, but didn’t. The county has two more work sessions scheduled for the budget ahead of the formal adoption.

The committee did recommend an increase of $20,000 to the grant, which is four times the amount the other municipalities in Worcester received.

The committee also removed $100,000 in funding for half of the design phase of Fire Station #3, a project that has since been shelved. It also removed another $100,000 to formulate a master plan and design for the Ocean Bowl Skate Park.

“The county’s own differential study says there’s a $7 million difference,” Mitrecic said. “I believe they’re forcing OC’s hand.”

Asked if he would support tax increases to other areas of Worcester in order to pay for the differential, Mitrecic said there are other options.

“I don’t believe we have to go that route. The county charges Ocean City the full amount to collect the food tax and the room tax, which ends up being about $500,000. There are other ways around it. I don’t want to cripple the rest of the county, but I do want to get more for Ocean City,” he said.

Mitrecic said the county could also contribute and work with Ocean City more on different projects, like the downtown recreational complex on Third Street.

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