2016-05-19 / Front Page

OOB budget met with little fanfare

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH – Town Manager Larry Mead is proposing a $15.9 million municipal budget for next year, which would result in a 2.8 percent increase to the mil rate.

In an introduction of the budget to the town council, Mead said increases in wages, debt services and health and retirement costs total $406,000.

Finance Director Diana Asanza, who has worked for the town since 2012, said the budget hasn’t changed much since Mead first introduced it to the council in April.

“Actually, it hasn’t (been stressful) … it’s been a very smooth process so far in what we’ve presented,” Asanza said. “I’ve worked with the town manager on his third budget. I feel like we’ve got a good handle on it, but again, we’ve got a few more weeks to go.”

Asanza said Mead followed direction from the council in keeping the mil rate to a 3 percent increase or less.

“We have a few things to revisit in the capital improvements plan, the projects were all worthy projects,” Asanza said. “Right now, we’re going through each and working with each department head.”

Although the council’s finance committee had recommended $1.6 million for capital improvement projects, Mead’s proposed budget would only fund $1.2 million in projects.

“Although I do not disagree with the finance committee’s assessment of the need for and desirability of the projects included in its proposed capital expenditures, I have over $400,000 in project proposals from my proposed capital budget in order to stay within the council’s budget guidance,” Mead said.

Asanza said the finance committee’s proposal to support $1.6 million for capital improvement was arrived at independently from Mead’s budget development and doesn’t necessarily represent a point of dispute between the town manager and the council.

“It looks like as far as capital goes, it’s a budget they could live with,” Asanza said. “Although most of the capital improvement projects were included, many will be reduced to smaller scales.”

For example, a 2009 plan for Veterans Memorial Park calls for installing a veterans monument as well as extensive landscaping. Asanza said installing the monument should be a priority, but an engineering plan needs be developed before proceeding completely with transforming the park.

“(The 2009 plan) is a broad plan, a very expensive plan,” Asanza said. “We kind of just wanted to put money toward the plan, just to get an idea of what can be done. What’s the priority? What’s the need for the park? One priority is getting the veterans monument up. It has a beautiful landscaping plan, but it needs an engineering plan.”

Mead’s budget also includes expanding the assistant planner position from a 28-hour part-time position to 37 hours full time.

“Reductions were made in other areas of the budget to limit the overall increase in code and planning to $6,500,” Mead wrote to the council. “Given the pace of development activity in the last two years, the additional hours are very much needed and the fulltime position should provide greater continuity in the position.”

Mead noted that the town projects to see an increase of $115,000 in revenue from licensing fees, building permits and excise taxes.

Asanza said the increased revenue is based on data from the last several years. Since 2013, the town’s revenue from fees and permits has increased each year. Asanza said there was a spike in plumbing, electrical and building permits in 2014 and 2015. The town had projected only $100,000 in revenue from the permits and fees in this year’s budget, but Asanza said that as of March, the town had already taken in more than $119,000.

Asanza said if the council passes Mead’s budget, and Regional School Unit 23 passes Superintendent Lloyd Crocker’s budget, the overall combined increase in taxes on a home valued at $200,000 would be $66 per year – a $36 increase for the town’s budget, $26 for the schools and $4 to cover the town’s contribution to the York County budget.

Asanza said the expansion of the homestead exemption, which will exempt $15,000 of valuation of a primary residence from being taxed next year, would result in a $10 decrease in taxes for qualifying homes valued at $200,000. The amount exempted this year for qualifying homes was $10,000.

Asanza said this year’s budget hasn’t presented much panic or controversy and the town is fortunate to be able to maintain its services without increasing the tax burden significantly.

“Pretty much everything else stays the same,” she said.

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