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OP budget guidance passes; ‘five-year’ plan battle looms

(Nov. 26, 2015) It took two months and several lengthy public debates, but the Ocean Pines Board of Directors passed its 2016-17 fiscal year budget guidance document last Thursday.
Introduced by the budget and finance committee during a special session on Sept. 16, the document underwent a number of changes before being released to the public on Monday.
Director Tom Terry drafted the final version, with input from the full board of directors.
In a letter accompanying the release, Terry said the document was presented to General Manager Bob Thompson “as a means of providing the board’s initial interests, directions, and policy positions it wishes [Thompson] to use in developing the proposed budget.”
Terry went on to write that capital dollars included in the budget “should continue the long standing capital funding approach utilized by the OPA to build and use reserves inclusive of depreciation expense.”
In addition, he said road resurfacing in the community should continue to use casino revenues, and that Thompson should use a “$0 based budget approach.”
“If possible, dues should remain at the same level as FY 2015, or be lowered based on a thorough assessment of the needs of the organization,” he wrote.”
The document called for Thompson to draft a capital plan that showed “a strong focus on the improvement of [Ocean Pines’] IT facilities,” adding that the budget should include a technology position “to meet the needs of a major IT improvement plan.”
Also via the plan, the board directed Thompson to include only “actual funding” needed for studies for future projects, as opposed to budgeting for costs of construction for future projects, an issue of contention among some members of the board.
When the proposed budget is presented to the board in January, the document calls for a report of each capital item listed in the current fiscal-year budget, with items not expected to be expended highlighted for “renewed approval.”
The board also requested business plans for major amenities, including the yacht club, aquatics and golf.
Finalization of the budget guidance document was almost derailed during the last regular board meeting on Nov. 19, when Director Dave Stevens moved to table a vote on approval, suggesting further conversation was needed.
“At this point … we either vote for this thing or we don’t bother to do it at all,” Terry said at the time. “This is becoming a silly process.”
Stevens eventually withdrew his motion and suggested three revisions to Terry’s latest draft, including removing what he called “placeholders” for replacement reserves, zeroing out the so-called “five-year funding plan” and including a “needs document” for a multi-year IT improvement plan.
Terry agreed to amend the language to include Stevens’ first and third requests, and the board voted unanimously to approve the document.
During a phone interview on Monday, Stevens said he hoped the board would reopen discussions on the five-year plan at a later date.
“What was left unspoken during the last budget guidance meeting was exactly what would happen to the funding,” he said. “We’re putting $1 million a year into that plan.
“There was an argument, which I didn’t subscribe to, that we needed to put the money in last year, and potentially this year, to make up for deficit on the yacht club,” Stevens continued. “I don’t think we have ever quite fully discussed the implications … the question is when does it ever end?
“I think it’s time. It needs to be readdressed seriously before we get into the next budget battle,” he said.