Ocean View to hold public hearing/workshop on budget

The Town of Ocean View will hold a public hearing and workshop on its 2017-fiscal-year operating and capital budgets on Tuesday, Feb. 23, with the public hearing beginning at 5:30 p.m., followed by the workshop at 6 p.m.

Currently, in the draft capital budget, funds have been set aside for workout equipment in the locker rooms for the police department, security enhancements for the second floor of the Wallace A. Melson Municipal Building and a new vehicle for the compliance officer, as well as a vehicle for an additional police officer.

Funds have been set aside for street maintenance and to address ADA non-compliance issues, as well as make improvements to John West Park.

“There’s a lot of money going out and not a lot coming in,” said Councilman Bill Olsen at the council’s Feb. 9 monthly council meeting.

Town Manager Dianne Vogel said the Town’s proposed 2017-fiscal-year revenue looks different from the current year’s budget. She noted that building and sign permits are expected to increase, due to activity, and the proposed budget reflects that increase — from $215,000 to $250,000.

“Business and rental licenses will be increased from $122,000 to $127,000,” she added. “Gross rental receipts will be increased from $206,000 to $225,000... Zoning and Board of Adjustment fees have been increased from $13,000 to $15,000 for the ’17 budget.”

Olsen had sent an email to council members, suggesting a tax increase may be necessary for the upcoming fiscal year.

Finance Director Lee Brubaker said that it would be best for the Town to figure out all other aspects of the proposed budget before looking into a tax increase.

“That’s the absolute last resort we have,” he said.

“I don’t believe in raising money before you know what you have to spend it on. There’s too much temptation to whittle it away,” added Mayor Walter Curran.

Vogel said that, additionally, it is recommended that the Town include an additional police officer in the 2017 budget. That officer would be the Town’s ninth sworn officer.

“If approved by council, this officer would be placed in the academy beginning March 2016. There are sufficient dollars remaining in the public safety budget for an additional officer,” she said.

Curran noted that the Ocean View Police Department has been shorthanded “for quite some time,” he said. “We’re bringing it up to where it should’ve been a year and a half, two years ago, by bringing this additional person in.”

Councilman Geoff Christ agreed that the additional officer is needed.

“We did a study in 2010, and we were at 8.5 [officers] in 2010 when we paid for that study. We’ve been behind for almost six years now,” said Christ. “I’ve been on the council. This is my sixth year. And in the six years I’ve been on council, we’ve had five officers leave — four for other departments, one due to a career-ending injury. In my average, we’ve almost had an officer a year leave for various reasons.

“With the increase of homes, year-round residents, and businesses and calls for the police… We’ve read stories of the defibrillators being there before the ambulance to save people. I think this is much-needed and a little bit overdue to have a ninth officer fulltime.”

The council unanimously agreed they felt hiring an additional officer was necessary. Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin said the department would be looking to identify a qualified candidate for the March academy.

The Town must adopt the budget no later than April 30. Copies of the draft are available by visiting the Wallace A. Melson Municipal Building.