Ocean City Today

OC’s commissioner delivers update on differential, Rt. 90

Mitrecic leads quarterly talk with city council on issues affecting both county, resort
By Greg Ellison | Mar 22, 2018

(March 23, 2018) While the expansion of Route 90 into a dual highway remains off anyone’s calendar in the State Highway Administration, County Commissioner Joe Mitrecic told the City Council Monday that the project continues to inch forward.

While presenting a quarterly update during the council’s Monday session, Mitrecic said his campaign to address Ocean City’s long-term infrastructure needs appears to have caught fire.

“The county has now come around and will endorse the dualization of Route 90,” he said. “They hadn’t wanted to go down that road before, but we are now.”

Before it considers funding road projects costing at least $5 million, the SHA now requires such requests first be substantiated with feasibility studies and detailed project cost estimates.

“This means that major local dollars are going to need to be spent showing the state that the highway projects are warranted,” he said.

Sticking to a roadway theme, Mitrecic said the new state procedures were part of a compromise Gov. Larry Hogan reached with lawmakers to support repeal of the “Road Kill Bill” passed in 2016. The legislation included a project priority grading system, which would have jeopardized 66 of 73 proposed road improvements.

“The governor vetoed the bill for the grading system on the roads because it wasn’t fair to rural counties,” he said.

Touching upon other battles, Mitrecic said the commissioners were stunned upon learning Ocean City filed a lawsuit against the county over its desire for a tax differential.

“To say they were upset would be an understatement,” he said.

Ocean City continues to press for a tax differential to account for numerous country services resort property owners are taxed for but don’t need or use.

“Now whether there is enough concern to start a dialogue with Ocean City still remains to be seen,” he said.

With Worcester County and Ocean City budget sessions beginning next month, Mitrecic provided a sneak preview of the fiscal year 2019 outlook.

“Revenues are anticipated to rise about two percent, or about $3.7 million, to a total of $202.6 million,” he said.

Mitrecic said county income from property taxes would increase by roughly $2.6 million, income tax revenue would go up by approximately $500,000, and unincorporated room taxes were expected to grow by about $325,000.

“That’s from the new hotels across the bridge which your advertising dollars help to promote,” he said.

A large portion of  that income will be used to meet increases in school funding required by the state, Mitrecic said.

“I believe it’s three percent [and] we have to absorb that somehow,” he said. “They give us less money and give us these unfunded mandates on top of that.”

While the fiscal increases are a positive indicator, Mitrecic said the bulk of revenue growth would be consumed by insurance and benefit increases.

“We have our work cut out for us to balance the county’s budget without a tax increase, which none of the commissioners really have an appetite for,” he said.

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