Ocean City Today

OC delivers county budget request

Mayor Rick Meehan doesn’t mention tax differential or pending litigation on issue
By Brian Gilliland | Mar 22, 2018
Mayor Rick Meehan

(March 23, 2018) Breaking from the tradition of the past several years, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan did not ask Worcester County for a tax differential during his budget request earlier this week, and instead followed the forms the other municipalities use.

The resort filed a case in January seeking declaratory judgment in Circuit Court on the differential issue. Maryland counties have a choice in providing tax setoffs for services duplicated by town and county governments. Worcester County has historically funded its four incorporated towns by means of unrestricted grants, or lump sum payments the respective municipal governments can use as they see fit.

There was no mention of this during Meehan’s presentation, and no one so much as used the words “tax differential” during the hearing.

The resort and the county have each funded a study to determine the amount of duplicated services, though the final conclusions of each study vary widely.

In a declaratory judgment, a judge offers an official opinion on a topic, but does not order any action or award any damages.

The county has until early next week to respond to Ocean City’s official complaint.

Meehan’s presentation, however, began with words of thanks. He thanked the commissioners for their support in the various state-level discussions Ocean City has found itself in this year, including offshore wind turbines and special events zones for vehicle events.

“It makes a difference and shows Ocean City and Worcester County are on the same page,” Meehan said.

Meehan requested a five percent increase to Ocean City’s grant, bring the total close to $2.01 million. He also asked the county to pay half of the projected $1.2 million cost to secure the Boardwalk from unauthorized vehicles, payable over two years.

“It is truly unfortunate how times have changed,” he said. “We need to make sure it doesn’t happen to Ocean City and Worcester County.”

The resort will have a solution in place this season, in the form of Jersey barriers that block certain entry or exit points of the Boardwalk, but the hope is to have a more elegant solution in place by next summer.

Finally, the resort revisited another old debate by asking the county for permission to highlight only its own website, www.ococean.com, in marketing materials. The county requires Ocean City to use both its own and the county’s tourism portal, www.visitworcester.org.

Meehan said adding the other site dilutes the message, and duplicates all the functionality provided by ococean.com.

The county commissioners offered no opinion or response to the resort’s request. All of the municipality requests will be tackled in the next few weeks as the county works to finalize its budget.

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