Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


OP passes preliminary budget guidance, rollover mechanism

(Oct. 1, 2015) It was a bit of a jumble, but the Ocean Pines Board of Directors voted 6-1 last Thursday to instruct General Manager Bob Thompson to draft a rollover mechanism for budgeted, but unspent, capital items, as well as to create a deadline for input in a conceptual budget guidance document for fiscal year 2017.
The Budget and Finance Committee met with the board a week earlier to discuss its own recommendations, which included the rollover mechanism.
Between sessions, Director Tom Terry took several discussion points and drafted a three-part motion: to accept, “for discussion,” an attached budget guidance document, to provide input and suggested changes by Sept. 28 and to approve concepts outlined in an attached capital management document.
Speaking from a cellphone during a public meeting on Sept. 24, Terry said the motion put several items “on the table” for discussion.
The larger debate focused on the rollover mechanism.
Director Cheryl Jacobs took exception to some of the language in the motion, worrying that it could be creating an “automatic” carryover.
“It’s clear to me that any item that falls under the category of a capital item may very well be started in budget year, but not completed until another,” she said. “I certainly understand that concept and approve [of it], however … I have a problem with that being continued to be rolled over into the next budget. I think it should be removed and resubmitted.”
Terry countered that his proposal would require the general manager to “apply” to the board before an item actually carried over.
“It doesn’t automatically carry over,” he said. “You would have to answer the question as to whether the work was ever actually going to be done, whether it was halfway done [and] where it is.
“It’s not an automatic rollover,” Terry added. “It’s simply a procedure.”
Terry said there is no current procedure for carrying funds from one year to the next. He added that his motion would address critics who accused the board of spending unbudgeted money, when the item was previously voted through by a previous board.
Director Dave Stevens questioned whether the mechanism was necessary for replacement projects, and said that, theoretically, unspent dollars create a surplus.
“In that case, there’s a larger issue,” he said. “Do we have to approve the project next year or not, or do we automatically grandfather it?
“In the case of a replacement project, is the authorization you get to spend the money out the reserves – is that grandfathered into the next year?” Stevens continued. “I don’t know that there’s a resolution necessary to make that happen.”
He also agreed with Jacobs that, if work on a project had not begun, it should be submitted for approval.
“Boards change and grandfathering something over when no money has actually been expended for that purpose, I don’t see it as being necessary, or even wise,” he said.
Terry argued that the motion was not philosophical, as some were arguing, but rather something that filled a procedural void.
“We do not have that process [for carrying funds over],” he said.
Stevens did not agree.
“We have a process,” he said. “It’s called the budget process.”
Terry admitted the language in the motion could have been amended for clarity.
“If [automatic carryover] is implied … then that’s not where we want to be,” he said. “At the end the discussion is to conceptually [say] we think this issue needs to be addressed and ask the general manager to come back with the specifics and the mechanism by which this would be done.
“What I’m proposing here … is the board vote to allow and instruct Bob to go write the procedure around what we just talked about and present it at the October meeting,” Terry continued.
Assistant Treasurer Pete Gomsak weighed in, echoing Terry’s comment that a rollover mechanism would help with public relations problems the board continuously runs into when voting to fund items previously approved during a prior-year budget.
He also said the mechanism could be used for something as simple as a purchase order for police cars not actually spent during the fiscal year when it was originally approved.
On the matter of budget guidance, the directors agreed to amend the original motion and extend the Sept. 28 deadline. Under a new motion, which was never read aloud, comments to Terry would be due by Oct. 7, with a finished motion due Oct. 15, two weeks before the next regular meeting.
Board President Pat Renaud called a vote on the corrected motion, which apparently included the new deadlines.
“I don’t know how [Executive Assistant] Michelle [Bennett] is going to get that motion down,” Stevens said.
Jacobs was the lone “no” vote.
“I’m opposed only because of [rollover] part of the motion,” she said.