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Clarke looking to end 6-year run of 5-year plan in OP

(Feb. 19, 2015) Two weeks after OPA Board Vice President Marty Clarke walked out of a budget meeting in frustration, the two-term director says he is still mulling his options on returning.  
Clarke suggested a number of changes to the fiscal year 2016 budget before the meeting, including reducing the projected assessment from $934 to $834.51.
Under operations, Clarke proposed a 35 percent reduction to the 7.7 percent payroll increase, cutting $150,000 from the budget, then added $50,000 for a reserve study and increased projected golf losses by $50,000.
Clarke’s proposal also increased performance at the marina by $10,000, increased the police grant from the county slightly, to $500,000, and eliminated the trolley, cutting $5,000.
Adjustments to capital contributions included a tennis shortfall of $45,000, adding $20,000 for swimming pool covers, a new HVAC system at the country club for $80,000, electronic signs for $40,000 and a fire pit at the yacht club for $20,000. He then deleted the line item for the new police building, saving $500,000.
Finally, under reserve contributions, Clarke added $314,068 for road depreciation and $350,000 for golf drainage, then eliminated the five-year plan, cutting $1,098,630 and reducing the assessment by nearly $130 in one swoop.
“If the board passes a budget with the five-funding year plan in it or some other $130 a person charge and calls it something else – if that passes I am not going to run for reelection, and I may or may not finish my term,” Clarke said. “I haven’t decided yet.
“I made a commitment to serve for three years and I don’t want to break that, but I made no commitment to serve another three years,” Clarke continued. “I put more time in on this board budget than most and still do.”
Clarke said the community has collected just shy of $5 million during the six years of the five-year funding plan.
“Approximately $500,000 of that has gone to deficit recovery, knocking down deficits that we generated before, which is a good thing,” he said. “Then over $4 million of the rest of it went to fund the new yacht club, where all the bills are paid. We owe less than a quarter million on the yacht club, maybe less than that.”
The problem, Clarke said, is that the board spent nearly $7 million during the same period, including $900,000 on golf greens and $850,000 for the new yacht club swimming pool and patio, both unbudgeted.
“That should have come out of historical reserves,” Clarke said. “That’s what historical reserves do – maintenance and replacement. They took it out of this new category that was invented and never approved.”
Clarke argued that the resolution on reserve accounts, signed by Board President Dave Stevens on March 9, 2009, does not include the phrases “historical reserve” or “five-year plan.”
“It’s not in there,” Clarke said. “This is a bogus and unapproved slush fund.
“[The resolution] been used by the minority in the past, and it says that you must fund depreciation,” Clarke continued. “But they don’t want to fund the road depreciation.”
On Saturday, Clarke watched the Billy Casper Golf presentation at the country club, then retired to his home to watch the following two golf presentations on his television.
“Golfers must really be interested in this – 44 heads were in the room when I left,” he said. “There were 50 if you include the six directors who were in the room.”
Clarke said he had not decided which way he’ll vote on the course during the board meeting Friday, but questioned why residents were not using the country club associated with the course.
“The second floor is abandoned. The heat is broken and they won’t fix it,” he said. “They took it out of the budget because they don’t want to fix it. They want to tear it down and build another Taj Mahal, because it worked so well at the yacht club.”
Clarke further expressed concerns over the yacht club, which has posted losses of $96,000 during the last three months.
“Anybody with a fiduciary responsibility for other people’s money, which we are – we are the stewards of other people’s money – nobody with one ounce of good sense would have kept the yacht club open October, November, December,” he said. “There’s no reason for it.
“Without even doing the math, the vast majority of Ocean Pines is not using the club right now,” Clarke continued. “The vast majority of Ocean Pines isn’t even here.”