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


OPA proposed budget includes fee increase

OCEAN PINES – Ocean Pines Association General Manager Bob Thompson presented his proposed budget to the association members for 2011-2012 fiscal year. Although there will be more changes before February’s final approval, as it stands the $10 million budget includes a $45 assessment increase.

The potential slots revenues will not be included in the coming year’s budget. The directors agreed the potential slots dollars should be set aside for future debate wherein the board will attempt to establish a policy for the money’s use.

The directors also elected to leave the golf operations budget presented by Billy Casper Golf alone based on the fact that the management company was hired to run to club. “If they’re off by miles [in this year’s projections] we can do budget triage next year,” said board president Tom Terry.

Thompson said that the most important part of the budget was an attitude change he hoped to affect that changed the focus from cost cutting to revenue generation. While he was clear that this didn’t mean his administration wouldn’t stop looking for inefficiencies, he maintained that attention to driving revenues would be the focus.

“We’ve got to break that mold of ‘just get by, just get by,’” he said. “To build a budget I needed to start with each area and figure out what they needed.”

With the exception in a golf cart rental increase – $1 per nine holes and $2 for 18 holes – Thompson does not intend to drive his revenue increases through raising amenity fees. The biggest part of the revenue-driving attitude, he said, was making sure the amenities stayed open and had consistent hours and service. Using the recently-opened Java Bay Cafe at the Yacht Club as an example, Thompson explained that rather than continuing to cut expenses and thereby service they’re making the investment in service.

“Not everything is going to work,” he said. “But nothing works if you don’t try.”

Thompson’s plan also includes the possibility of hiring a chef to manage the costs and innovations it might take to further improve the food and beverage operations and consistency. He said that while he wanted to retain the option, he didn’t know for a fact that he would need to hire a chef and that the current staff did a sufficient job.

The notion of hiring a chef, along with potentially other staff members are core parts of the attitudinal change where rather than cutting services to save money, the management would focus on improving service and proportionately generating revenue.

“The last couple of years we’ve cut too deep,” he said. “Part of it is we have too many people overworked and under paid.”

Thompson’s proposed staff increase, which could add as many as four full-timers to the payroll, was to fit into what he called the need for additional and more effective campus management to better respond to member problems and concerns.

Among the additional possible employees was a human resources director position that might end up being contracted out. The board appeared to favor the notion of a subscription to a human resources service provided by their current payroll company.

Thompson said that the human resources duties were currently distributed among the accounting department staff.

Thompson also suggested the addition of a program supervisor for the Parks and Recreation Department, pointing out that increased opportunities for participation not only build community but could also help grow revenue.

Similarly, he said the revenue he hoped to generate included finding a way to make better use of the indoor pool rather than “complain that we have a covered pool that’s losing money.”

In addition to extending the pool hours, which he said was a minimal cost compared to the expense of keeping it heated, Thompson said the OPA was looking into getting into the pool maintenance business. In addition to managing other pools he suggested the OPA might consider providing other pools with contractual lifeguards and other pool-oriented services. The OPA currently provides pool management services for The Parke at Ocean Pines, a further subdivision of the HOA.

“When you build a budget, you should be building for these types of opportunities,” he said.

Based on his proposed changes, Thompson said he hoped to generate just under $5 million in revenue, a projected 20 percent increase over last year’s revenues.

Director John McLaughlin raised some concerns about the proposed expense increases aimed at driving revenue. He worried that if the revenue wasn’t generated the increases wouldn’t be properly covered.

While they said they applauded Thompson’s creativity and enthusiasm when it came to finding new revenue sources, several of the directors worried about the notion of competing with local businesses for management contracts. They were also concerned about not having the new business models run past them before the initiatives were run past the board.

“It’s stepping out of the footprint of Ocean Pines,” Terry said. The directors took many of Thompson’s suggestions into account when publicly reviewing his budget and proposed a few changes. Thompson’s budget revisions will be part of the final budget to be presented to the board for their review.

The directors are expected to review the changes they’ve requested and pass a final budget at their Feb. 16 meeting.