By Greg Ellison
(Jan. 14, 2021) The Ocean Pines Budget and Finance Committee continued its line item vetting of the next fiscal year’s budget proposal last Thursday with presentations from public works, recreation and parks, marinas, and the police pepartment, as well as reviewing proposed new capital expenditures.
The Ocean Pines Association’s fiscal year begins May 1.
Linda Martin, from Public Works, said two unfilled positions were eliminated to help curtail rising payroll costs.
The total proposed payroll for public works in the FY21/22 budget is roughly $1.18 million, which is about $166,000 greater than the just over $1 million forecast for the current year.
Budget Committee member Brian Reynolds asked what costs fall in the repairs and maintenance category, which was budgeted at $320,000 this year and proposed for $299,000 for fiscal 21-22.
Public Works and CPI Director Eddie Wells said the general maintenance line item includes costs such as painting and servicing equipment.
“Maintenance we have to do yearly to keep things up and operating,” he said.
General Manager John Viola said deferred maintenance was a topic of contention two years ago but more recently greater attention has been paid to facilities’ upkeep.
Viola said the increased focus could reduce costs for building upkeep in future years.
Next year’s proposed budget includes $220,000 for general maintenance of buildings and facilities, which matches the sum in the current year budget.
Viola said last year public works had estimated about $500,000 would be required to address numerous failing drainage pipes, which are outside of the large scale Bainbridge project.
“We reallocated about $300,000 of this public works drainage money to Bainbridge,” he said.
To rectify the shortfall, the new budget proposes to include $266,000 in replacement capital for public works to complete pipe repairs.
“They’re key pipes and they have to be done,” he said.
Viola said both the Budget and Finance Committee and the board of directors previously signed off on the reallocation to update underground piping, some of which have been in use more than four decades.
“They’re pretty bad and it’s a big cost,” he said.
Wells said a number of less costly alternatives are being explored.
“The traditional way of digging in to replace pipes runs into lots of utility lines,” he said. “The prices are mind boggling.”
Wells is obtaining pricing and specifications for epoxy pipe lining, which eliminates the need to dig trenches by employing resin to fill in damaged sections.
Public Works Operations Manager Nobie Violante updated the status of a four-year bulkhead replacement program launched two years ago.
Violante said price estimates for FY21/22 are about $375,000, but could end up being closer to $400,000.
Once the next budget goes into effect in May, the intent is to contact multiple vendors to lock in pricing and avoid any increases for materials prior to the bulkhead repairs getting underway in September.
“We would do less linear feet and stretch out the bulkhead program if we can’t negotiate for lower prices,” he said.
Viola said depending on the final cost for bulkhead work, the initial estimate of a related $40 increase on assessments could be lowered to $25. The current assessment charge for bulkhead maintenance $19.
RECREATION AND PARKS
Director of Parks and Recreation Debbie Donahue said revenue from event bookings and Camp Ocean Pines took a nosedive in 2020.
Special event revenues, which were budgeted at $102,000 this year are expected to close at $1,500, but are proposed at $900,000 for next year.
Camp Ocean Pines, which was budgeted to raise $159,000 this year is presently forecast at $71,000 but is anticipated to return to form in summer 2021.
“We’re hoping to get back to normal,” she said. “That’s why it is jumping from $71,000 this year to $160,000 next year,” she said.
Ocean Pines Marina manager Ron Fisher attributed strong financials this year to an increase in recreational boating, as more boaters had more time because of pandemic-related work closures.
Marina fuel sales, which were budgeted to generate almost $139,000 this year, are forecast to close at more than $195,000.
“This fall was decent boating weather,” he said.
Still, Fisher adopted a conservative view in proposing $150,000 in net revenues from fuel sales for next year.
“We have no control over the weather,” he said.
Fisher said a 4 percent increase for annul slip rentals is proposed next year.
Annual fees for slips accommodating vessels under 26 feet are proposed to increase from $1,872 to $1,947, while the smaller number of slips for boats up to 40 feet would rise from $2,548 to $2,649 and slips at the Swim and Racquet Club would go up from $1,352 to $1,406.
Fisher, who had researched comparable prices from area marinas, said the average slip cost for 22-foot boats hovered around $3,000 annually.
“We have a waiting list of about 30 boats for slips,” he said. “We got 5-6 calls in the last few days.”
Chief of Police Leo Ehrisman noted his department is not intended to generate revenue.
“Our budget is limited to equipment, operations and salaries,” he said.
Viola said the budget proposal for the department includes replacements for two high-mileage vehicles.
“Based on the seriousness, I will ask for two cruisers at the next board meeting,” he said. “It can’t be avoided and waiting four months could be high maintenance costs.”
Ocean Pines President Larry Perrone said in that scenario the request would qualify as a budget issue for the current year.
“We don’t need to get into it now,” he said.
Viola concurred and said the proposed budget would be adjusted to reflect a single vehicle acquisition, which could be amended later, contingent on board approval.
The proposed budget includes $257,000 in capital additions, including $68,000 for expanded pickleball courts, $67,000 for new junior tennis courts, $27,000 for racquet courts fencing, $70,000 for T-Docks at the Ocean Pines Yacht Club and $30,000 for boat ramp gates.
Perrone took issue with the slate of proposals.
“These spends this year don’t qualify for the new capital reserve account,” he said. “The purpose of that is to look at projects the board feels we want to accomplish that are multi-year.”
Perrone said the projects are reasonable but need to be financed through other means.
Viola said he was under the impression the board had intended the account for new capital expenditures once approved.
“I can alter the approach if you want,” he said. “This is new capital that is attainable in the budget year we’re looking at.”
OPA Treasurer Doug Parks said further clarification is needed for the process to request use of funds from the new capital reserve account.
“Changes are inevitable but as they come up, how do we want to handle them on a consistent basis?” he said.