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Pines approves budget, $986 assessment

Ocean Pines Board members last Saturday vote 6-1 to approve a $12.8 million fiscal 2020 budget, setting the new assessment rate at $986 per homeowner.

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(Feb. 28, 2019) The Ocean Pines Board of Directors finalized a $12.8 million fiscal year 2020 budget on Saturday, and set the basic annual assessment at $986 per homeowner.

Assessments fluctuated wildly throughout the budget process, from a low of $951 with the proposed budget released on Jan. 4, to a high of $1,078 with the “recommended” budget on Jan. 25.

Before approving the budget last Saturday, the directors met on Feb. 16 and trimmed what was then a $1,005 assessment to $991. Budget changes made during that meeting included:

  • Removing all marketing dollars for television and radio ads, totaling $47,188 or $5.58 toward assessments.
  • Removing the $19 bulkhead assessment for non-bulkhead lot owners.
  • Removing $19,000 for a part-time human resources position, or $2.25 toward assessments.
  • Cutting the aquatics budget by $24,764, or $2.93 toward assessments.
  • Cutting the parks and recreation budget by $22,739, or $2.69 toward assessments.
  • Cutting the public works budget by $6,500, or $0.77 toward assessments.
  • Cutting health insurance premiums $13,000, or $1.54 toward assessments.
  • Removing borrowing-fees associated with an administration building renovation by funding it through replacement reserves, cutting costs by $16,500, or $1.95 toward assessments.
  • Adding $20,000 to the general manager’s budget for contracted services, adding $2.7 to assessments.
  • Adding $69,600 to the administration budget for Northstar software “annual license support and maintenance,” adding $8.23 to assessments.
  • Adding $5,000 in beach parking contracted services for bathroom cleaning, adding $0.59 to assessments.
  • Adding $4,000 for pickleball supplies to purchase “shade structures for the pickleball courts,” adding $0.47 to assessments.
  • Reducing delinquent assessment revenue projections by $97,000, by cutting the late fee charge from 20 percent to 6 percent, adding $11.48 to assessments.

Additionally, on Feb. 16 the directors agreed to two changes in employee health care coverage, first changing the rate structure so employees pay for 20 percent of their coverage, saving $97,000, but also approving a one-time pay adjustment of $97,000 for employees who are affected.

Last-minute budget changes made on Saturday included removal of a 2-percent merit pool, or $72,000 for pay raises, and the addition of $25,000 for an executive search to replace recently departed General Manager John Bailey.

Finance Director Steve Phillips said the deficit recovery plan would now be spread out over four years rather than three, as was previously proposed. About $1 million of a $1.6 million deficit incurred during fiscal years 2017 and 2018 remains.

Phillips said a proposed sports core pool addition was removed from the final budget, and software costs associated with implementing new Northstar software systems were cut from $600,000 $250,000, largely because of “timing between the fiscal years.”

According to Phillips, budgeted capital expenditures for fiscal year 2020 total $5,081,579.

Director Colette Horn said budgeted revenues and expenses for the fiscal year were both $12,836,866.

A full copy of the approved fiscal 2020 budget was not made available as of early this week.