Ocean City Today
https://oceancitytoday.villagesoup.com/p/1653664

Nonprofit funding still probed in OC budget

Hartman suggests rotating allocations, others push for future payment to hospitals
By Katie Tabeling | May 18, 2017

(May 19, 2017) Although the Ocean City Council has approved the fiscal year 2018 budget, questions persist about the possibility that resort property owners are donating to nonprofits twice.

Councilman Wayne Hartman maintained the position during Monday’s session that Ocean City’s budget allowed for a “double donation,” since it included $92,083 in grants to various organizations in the county. His argument has been that because 54 percent of Worcester County’s revenue comes from the resort’s taxes, the county’s contributions to nonprofits must include a substantial share from Ocean City.

“I still wasn’t elected to collect taxes and give them to nonprofts, but I know there’s a difference of opinion here,” Hartman said. “Maybe we can set a certain amount aside each year for funding, so we’re not picking and choosing which ones are a better asset to the town.”

He used Atlantic General Hospital an example, which sought $200,000 as part of its $10 million expansion plan. That request was not funded in the FY18 spending plan.

“With AGH being there [in Berlin] it saves us a lot of money. If we needed to make runs to PRMC [Peninsula Regional Health System], we would have three paramedics tied up for hours and we’d need additional medical crews,” Hartman said. “We need to look at setting an amount and nonprofits that don’t get funding can get it next year. It’s a better position than choosing.”

Council Secretary Mary Knight said she did receive numerous calls about the council’s decision not to fund Atlantic General Hospital or Coastal Hospice, which requested $10,000. That, and reconsidering who both organizations serve, made her reconsider her stance.

“I strongly feel that AGH and Coastal Hospice are critical ... I’m asking that in the second budget amendment [for the FY17 budget] that we have serious discussions on how we can help if there’s additional revenue,” she said. “I believe we have a responsibility to make them what they need to be.”

Councilman Dennis Dare agreed, but said that the time would come when the council considers the strategic financial plan and determines which capital improvement projects should be paid for and how they could increase the tax rate.

“Hopefully, with the budget amendment or before the first of the year, we’ll be in a better position to help them, once our crystal ball becomes clearer,” Dare said.

Hartman cautioned against adding Atlantic General Hospital and Coastal Hospice on top other expenses, which would add burden on the taxpayers. Council President Lloyd Martin said the budget on the table already prioritizes items for Ocean City.

“We have a budget that is responsible. We’re going to have a difference of opinion, but we’ll have something that make sense. Let’s look forward, not backwards,” Martin said.

Mayor Rick Meehan agreed that the point of funding the organizations was to assist those that don’t have a revenue source, but suggested the county needed to shoulder more costs. The hospital also received $175,000 from the county in its 2018 budget plan, out of its requested $300,000. Coastal Hospice is set to receive $10,000, the full request, from the county next fiscal year as well.

“I do support the hospital, but I think this is a case where the county should support it because it provides services for the county,” Meehan said. “If it takes adding a half cent to the [county] tax rate, that would be a good way to recognize funding for the entire county.”

The council voted unanimously to adopt the FY18 budget of $128 million, which includes $84.3 million in the general fund. Property taxes are kept to the constant yield to 46.56 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Overall, property taxes will generate $40.6 million, which is roughly a $244,000 increase from last year.

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