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Forum gives public first look at FY 2016 budget

(Feb. 26, 2015) Ocean Pines Association General Manager Bob Thompson presented the latest draft of the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget during a public meeting on Saturday, Feb. 21.
The $12.8 million draft includes an operating budget of $10.6 million, as well as $2.1 million in capital funding from reserves.
Thompson said the goal of the meeting was to provide the membership with an overview of what went into building the budget, along with highlighting key components.
Drafting the budget began in September with staff meetings, when Thompson asked department heads for a list of “needs, wants and desires,” and used capital project worksheets to review capital requests.
In October Thompson began reviewing formal requests from department heads, followed by sit-down meetings with both parties and controller Art Carmine in November when requests were scrutinized against previous-year budgets.  
The budget began to take shape in December.
“At that point, what we do is we pull it together and see how it’s going to impact overall as it feeds up into the master budget,” Thompson said. “With the element we had, plus the guidance from the board, we made any necessary changes or modifications we felt needed to be accomplished.”
Thompson delivered the budget to the board on Jan. 8. Budget and finance committee meetings ran from Jan. 12-14, and the board formerly took up the budget, with committee suggestions, Jan. 26 and 27.
“I will say this year with the budget and finance committee was the best of the years that I’ve been doing this,” Thompson said. “The input and feedback was very cordial and I don’t take that lightly.”
The board met separately with the fire department on Feb. 4, and held budget and guidance meetings on Feb. 7 and Feb. 18.
Board changes to the original Thompson proposal included reducing overall payroll by $150,000, increasing golf losses by $35,876 [to $50,000] and increasing marina income by $10,000.
The board also added $50,000 for a reserve study, $45,000 for the Mandolin Meadows project, $40,000 for electronic signage, $20,000 for yacht club expenses, including fans, fire pits and televisions, and $20,000 for pool covers.
The board also moved to rename the controversial “five-year funding plan” as the “legacy plan,” carrying over the $130 addition to assessments to pay off deficits and fund new capital projects.
Deficits in other reserve funds will be paid off using funds from the historical reserve.
Thompson said the historical and five-year plan subsets of the capital assets replacement reserve would be dissolved in the future, with the board using the CIP/reserve study to inform major funding decisions “on a case-by-case basis.”
The 2016 budget projects a $6 overall increase in assessments, with $24 tied to Fire/EMS, $6 to police, $3 to recreation and parks, $2 to general maintenance and $1 to administration. The public works budget currently decreases assessments by $1.
The bulk of assessments, $608, are tied to general operations. Amenity operations project a negative $56 impact on assessments, with $13 additions by aquatics and a $6 additions by golf offset by positive projections at the beach club [$11], beach parking [$42], yacht club [$7] and marinas [$15].
Reserves added $327 to assessments, with $183 coming from replacement of reserves, $109 coming from the legacy fund, $19 coming from bulkheads and $16 from operating fund deficit recovery.
“The bottom line … takes this year’s proposed assessment over last year from $909 to $915,” Thompson said.
Thompson said he spoke with Board President Dave Stevens on Friday, and that the board will likely hold a special meeting in early March to finalize the budget.
“I thought it was a very good meeting and I thought Thompson did a very good job,” Stevens said afterward. “It was what it was supposed to be. I was a little disappointed there weren’t a lot of people there. It’s been debated back and forth and I think people are saying, ‘Get on with it and figure something out.’ I think we’re saying that too.”
Of the remaining work to do on the budget, Stevens said the board would have to address the change in golf management and “the philosophy” behind reserves.
“I don’t see anything that would prevent us from getting to a budget,” he said. “On the other hand there’s no reason to rush, either. I don’t think it will be decided during the next [Feb. 28] board meeting. I think it will probably be the week after.”
Members can view the proposed budget at the OPA administrative office, which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.