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Assessments drop by $13 in new budget

By Cindy Hoffman

Staff Writer

(Feb. 23, 2023) It’s official, assessments on Ocean Pines property will be less in the year ahead. The Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors agreed at its Saturday session that assessments will drop by $13, making the bill for basic non-waterfront lots $883 and for waterfront lots $1,325.

The assessments were finalized when the board voted to approve the 2023-24 budget by a five to two vote, with Colette Horn and Frank Daly voting against.

Their main concern with the budget was that the aquatics department was projected to be in the red to a tune of $100,000.

Horn noted that the governing documents say amenities should be run at break-even or better. In order to break even, prices for memberships, classes and daily visits would have to increase, raising the concern that it could price people out of a valued amenity, especially those on a fixed income.

Ultimately, the majority of board members voted for the budget.

General Manager John Viola reviewed the financials for January 2023. According to a memo from the Director of Finance/Controller Steve Phillips, “We have a positive operating fund variance for January of $43,120. Revenues were over budget by $18,414 and total expenses were under budget by $24,706.  We have a positive year to date operating fund variance of $1,079,014, revenues are over budget by $946,618 and total expenses are under budget by $132,396.”

“Ninety percent of this is revenue growth,” Viola said. “That’s where our favorability is coming from since I’ve been here. It’s organic growth.  Each year we have taken the budget and we have budgeted higher for each amenity. So, when you have a favorability this year, it is also on a higher base with the revenue from prior years.”

Revenues are over budget by $946,618 and expenses are under budget $132,396. The unaudited estimated balance of $6,623,000 for the reserves.

“Yes, there is a surplus right now, but there are other things that could be coming down the road. The surplus for this year will be built into next year’s budget, like we did for the last two years,” said Viola.

Director Monica Rakowski provided the treasurer’s report.  As of Jan. 31, 2023, the association had approximately $13.9 million in cash. The cash increased $900,000 from the same time period last year. Ocean Pines Association has $11.1 million invested in CDARs, with the remaining $2.8 million in insured cash sweep, money market and other operating accounts.

With interest rates continuing to increase in the marketplace, there will continue to be an upward trend of interest income realized within the reserve accounts in the coming months, according to the report.

Other highlights of the meeting include reports on aggressive efforts to fill positions.

The Ocean Pines Job Fair is scheduled for March 11 from 9 a.m. to noon. Viola said the administration is also looking to do a job fair at Stephen Decatur High School. All the departments are advertising positions.

Police have six openings with five inquiries. Interviews are being conducted for the racquet sports manager. Public works has three openings and one new employee with 32 inquiries. In order to be fully operational this summer, Ocean Pines needs 40 lifeguards, 10 front desk staff, and four bathroom attendants. Two new lifeguards have been hired with a third in the process.

Viola provided updates on the maintenance done in the community, including the installation of LED lights at the basketball court.  The administration building renovations continue, including HVAC and plumbing, design, painting, restrooms and floors. Most of the work on the building has been done by outside contractors. The yacht club overhang was painted to address rust and the ceilings and walls in the ballroom were completed.

The board members continued their discussion from last month’s meeting on a proposal for a licensed contractor registration. Horn said the problem is unlicensed tradespeople working in the community in violation of the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) standards.

Homeowners are bearing the subsequent expense of that when the work of unlicensed and uninsured trades people results in sub-standard work, she said. At the same time, she continued, the administration wants to increase efficiency in the permit approval process.

She proposed the creation of a voluntary registration of licensed contractors. The list would reside in the Compliance Permit and Inspection (CPI) department. Horn said the goal would be to provide homeowners with a list of licensed contractors who work in Ocean Pines. Homeowners could, of course, hire anyone they choose.

 Directors did wonder if such a list would be considered an endorsement of certain contractors and whether there was a need for such a list. Ultimately, the board agreed to allow CPI to create the list with no charge to the contractors, a change from the original proposal, which would have charged contractors to be on the list.

Two resolutions were approved by the board. Resolution B01: to clarify the language in the resolution regarding written legal review of resolutions and amendments to resolutions and record keeping of the legal review.

A revision to Resolution M-08: to clarify language in the resolution regarding the review and changes in the various manuals (when needed) and to clarify which manuals shall be reviewed by the general manager and which shall be reviewed by the board.

Monica Rakowski presented a motion to establish a 6 percent interest rate for delinquent assessment fees for the fiscal 2023-2024 budget, which was also approved.

The board wrapped up its meeting by approving appointments to two committees: John Lynch to the Strategic Planning Committee and John Maziuk to the Environment and Natural Assets Committee.