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


Pines budget keeps lid on assessments

Aided by ‘tailwinds,’ OPA proposal forecasts year with good final results

By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer

(Feb. 9, 2023) Ocean Pines residents had an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments during a Feb. 1 town hall meeting on the 2023 proposed budget.

Ocean Pines Association General Manager John Viola outlined the “headwinds”­­­ and “tailwinds” that are affecting this year’s budget.

“Headwinds and tailwinds affect everything we do,” said Viola. “We definitely have headwinds, no different than anyone else.”

The headwinds he described included inflation, the increase in the minimum wage, market-to-market, labor pool, and an increase in insurance premiums.

At the same time, however, Ocean Pines is being aided by tailwinds that include improved performances at all of the amenities and departments.

Because of that, the proposed 2023 assessment for non-waterfront lots is $892, and $1,507 for waterfront lots, $4 less than last year.

Viola also expects more than $1 million in surplus for the year. That’s significant considering that in 2020, Ocean Pines was carrying a deficit.

“We paid off the deficit we inherited,” said Viola. “Now we have an unprecedented surplus.”

Viola reminded board members and residents that the 2022 fiscal year is not yet closed out. Viola said, “This money is not realized for six to seven months after the 2023 budget is set.” That surplus should be left touched until after the fiscal audit, he advised.

There was significant discussion about whether the money could be used before the audit is finalized, but ultimately, most board members voiced their support for Viola’s recommendation.

“It would be unwise to spend money we don’t have with the headwinds we are experiencing,” Director Steve Jacobs said.

“Last year, we faced the largest inflation we have had in a generation. Good management means we are not having to raise assessments,” said Board Member Frank Daly.

The conversation then turned to membership rates for the pools and possibly other amenities, as OPA President Doug Parks asked whether the board should consider “layers of membership.”

Various options were discussed. including a couples membership, a homeowners rate, extended family rates and rates for grandchildren, as well as the sale of coupons.

“We cannot do this multi-level membership this year,” Daly said. “We should consider setting up a work group to explore this and do an analysis.”

Parks suggested that the Aquatics Advisory Committee could look at the issue and have something concrete for next year’s budget.

Director Stuart Lakernick, however, suggested trying a couples category for this year and working towards others later,” but Jacobs countered that such a move would require developing a proposal that would have to be vetted by the staff and board.

Colette Horne agreed that more analysis and data would be needed before any steps in that direction could be taken.

The 2023 budget currently proposes that average membership dues for the numerous OP amenities go up approximately 3 percent.

The proposed individual annual membership dues for aquatics are at $425. Tennis membership is at $275 and pickleball membership is at $187. Annual membership for the golf club is $1,100.

Boat slips are proposed to also go up 3 percent and beach club parking is proposed to go up 7 percent, according to Viola.

Proposed boat slips fees at the Yacht Club range from $2,125 to $4,085 depending on the size of the boat. For slips at the swim and racquet club, the proposed cost is $1,535 for the season.

The amenities, led by golf, continue to show growth in revenue because of increased use, but also because of price increases as recommended by the Strategic Planning Committee’s guidance.

Within the assessment is a continued increase in infrastructure spending for roads, drainage, mailboxes, deferred maintenance, and new capital project(s) and initiatives such as the Pintail Park kayak launch.

It’s anticipated that Ocean Pines will have healthy reserves to fund emergency projects of more than $5.3 million for the end of this year.

Also discussed at the session was the proposal to require businesses to have licenses to do work in Ocean Pines that requires a permit. Horne said the Architectural Review Committee will provide a presentation on this in the February board meeting. She requested that the board consider the issue and vote on it.

The final issue discussed was the use of the vacuum truck for leaf removal in the ditches. While the cost for this service is still in the proposed budget, the issue continues to be debated, as is the idea of requiring permits and coupons to access the Public Works yard for leaf disposal.