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OP gets first look at 2016 budget

(Jan. 22, 2015) The public got its first look at the Ocean Pines Association’s fiscal year 2016 budget during last week’s Budget and Finance committee work sessions at the country club.
The proposed $10.9 million budget includes a $25 increase in membership fees, which raises the total to $934 per property.
Public works and police showed the two largest budgetary shortfalls, with deficits of $1.2 million, or $146 per property owner, and $1.16 million, or $137 per property owner, respectively.
General maintenance forecasts a loss of $472,000, or $56 per property owner, fire/EMS estimates a $485,321 loss, $57 per property owner, recreation sees a $522,969 loss at $62 per property owner, aquatics is eyeing a shortfall of $113,000, $13 per property owner, and the yacht club predicts an $87,868 loss at $10 per property owner.
The golf course budget, which has been the subject of debate, projects a $14,124 estimated loss in fiscal year 2016. While still in the red, those numbers represent a bullish outlook after the course lost $536,901 in 2013 and $326,048 in 2014. Numbers for 2015 are still fluid, although the current projection is a $91,000 loss.
Budget numbers for the police department remained relatively flat over the previous year, despite department requests to raise entry-level pay from $38,000 to $41,000. Three current employees would be affected by the increase.
The largest capital improvements in the proposed budget include $175,000 for bridge repairs on Ocean Parkway and Clubhouse Drive, coming from the public works budget.
Aquatics asked for $100,000 to expand the concrete deck around the Beach Club pool, $100,000 to resurface the Sports Core pool, $50,000 to resurface the Sports Core pool deck, $22,558.87 for bases, chairs, tables and umbrellas and $12,000 to install a kitchen and snack bar at the Swim and Racket pool.
Recreation and parks requested $145,000 for a new bathroom facility at White Horse Park and $45,000 to replace existing software.
Committee Chair Patricia Supik called the proposed budget “imminently doable.”
“It’s flat, really,” she said. “With a couple of the amenities there might be a slight risk in the budget, but I think it’s minimal. The dollars are not in any way significant to the bottom line considering the size of the community.
“When I ran down the changes year over year, not a lot popped out,” Supik continued. “The yacht club maybe a little better result than last year, but that makes total sense to me given the yacht club will be open a full year and there’s been a chance to really get the operations improved there. I think that’s doable.”
Committee member Dennis Hudson said he was unconcerned about the yacht club projections because of the relatively low cost per resident.
“We have bigger things we should be looking at that are a lot more cost to the individual,” he said. “I think that we’ve been concentrating our whole life on $10 and we’ve got other ones that are $137. I think we would do better to direct our time towards the bigger fish.
“My area of concern is the ballooning parks and rec budget, because we continue to pick up more services for out-of-Ocean Pines residents,” Hudson continued. “Of course, we don’t have to do that. I think there’s a point in time where we say, ‘Here’s the line – we’re not going to cross this line.’ We can’t continue to grow like this.”
The committee met with General Manager Bob Thompson, as well as several department heads throughout the week.
Following a presentation by Thompson and additional comment from Golf Course Superintendent Rusty McLendon and PGA Director of Golf John Malinowski, the committee pressed for, but did not receive, answers from attending board members about the future management of the course as the directors continue to explore options other than Billy Casper Golf.
Supik admitted the committee was also “back and forth” regarding the $14,124 projection.
“The golf course is kind of in a learning phase,” Supik said. “Finally, last year was the first year we had the golf course fully operational, so that’s a little bit of a new business in a way.
“I’m not sure what the market is,” Supik continued. “I hear that golf is declining everywhere and I think that it is somewhat aggressive in some of the more kind of shoulder months for the golf course. I’m not an expert in that arena, but I think it’s maybe a little bit of a reach in the off months.”
Hudson also expressed reservations about the projections.
“We’ve got a professional manager managing it and I would say if they don’t meet the budget then I would say we need to make a change,” he said. “As far as how accurate their forecasting is on things like golf rounds, I have no idea. I have no way to know because we really don’t get into the mechanics of how they produce the budget. Is it possible? I think it’s possible. Is it likely? Probably not.”
The committee appeared to support the software upgrade at recreation and parks, and Supik said the group wanted a stronger push in information technology improvements communitywide, including better Wi-Fi at all of the amenities.  
“The committee supports information technology, developing, moving forward, becoming a little more up to 2015 in that area,” she said. “I know a lot of companies bigger than Ocean Pines struggle with that today. The committee felt that was very important.”
Some issues, including the increase in the Fire/EMS budget that drove $24 of the $25 membership increase, will likely be left up to the board according to Supik.
The committee debated the reallocation of $48,000 in revenue from the beach parking to aquatics, although Supik suggested that too would be left for board debate.
“We went back and forth about that,” she said. “I think you could make an argument for or against. When you buy the beach parking package, you get four passes to [the sports core] pool, so there’s kind of a cost of that pool in that revenue stream. It could make sense.
“The bottom line dollars are what they are and that little bit of allocation, some committee members were in favor – some were not – so we would probably not address that in our recommendation,” Supik continued.
Supik said she is finalizing recommendations and communicating with other committee members in anticipation of a presentation to the board of directors on Monday, Jan. 26.