Ocean View holds public meetings on 2012 FY budget

On Tuesday, Feb. 15, the Town of Ocean View held a public meeting to solicit comments from citizens about the proposed 2012-fiscal-year budget. Citizens were provided with a list of 28 budget issues that council members feel needs to be addressed in regard to the proposed budget.

“The council is very interested in hearing what you think the FY-12 budget should include and not include,” said Town Manager Conway Gregory. “This is a part of a five-year plan that is now in its third year. It is euphemistically called the ‘get-well plan.’”

Also on Feb. 15, George Keen, a chairman for the Ocean View Homecoming event, spoke about the town’s annual event, which the town has previously budgeted $5,000 to help sponsor.

Keen said that, although members of the Ocean View Historical Society primarily run the non-profit event, Homecoming is actually a town event.

“Last year’s event was not for profit, as all of our events are supposed to be. … The question is whether or not the $5,000 should come from the town. Frankly, if we’re going to continue to use Delaware National [Bank] as a major sponsor, then, no, we don’t need $5,000,” said Keen.

He noted that, last year, the event cost $6,100 and was attended by approximately 700 people, and when all was said and done, $126 carried over.

“We don’t feel it’s important to solicit businesses and get them to contribute to this event. [It should be] a town-sponsored event or no event, because I don’t think anyone wants to pick it up and go with it if it’s not for profit.”

Resident Richard Nippes echoed Keen’s sentiments, stating that, although it may be perceived as a fundraiser for the Historical Society, it is not.

“That event is something I basically initiated when I was on the council,” said Nippes, “and I want to make it very clear to the council that when that was initiated, it was to be a town-sponsored event. The Historical Society was going to volunteer its time to actually run the event for the town. This is not a fundraising activity for the society.”

“If the town wants this event, then they should put up the money. If they feel they need to save this money, then tell us now,” he said. “This is something I think the town needs. These are tough times. If you wish to not do it, that’s fine.”

On Feb. 15, George Pickrell – a candidate for mayor in the upcoming Ocean View elections – presented his alternative budget proposal.

“Ocean View does not need to raise taxes at any time over the next five years,” he asserted.

Pickrell added that the town must meet five criteria when considering spending reductions in order to make a proposal “viable.”

• Protect the citizens of Ocean View;

• Protect the town’s employees and not attempt to balance the budget on their backs;

• Not reduce services to citizens;

• Not compromise the safety and protection of its citizens — 24/7 police protection must be maintained; and

• Consider the economic conditions of Ocean View, the state and the nation

Pickrell credited Councilman Perry Mitchell for the revised alternative budget he previously presented to council.

“It was a step in the right direction, but it needed some work,” Pickerell said. “The first thing I did was consult four members of the Long-Range Financial Planning Committee and challenge them for suggestions that would not raise taxes and accomplish these objectives.”

His proposed reductions included reducing overall overtime, reducing the cost of the planned public works building and reducing park improvements, in terms of both expansion and fixtures.

“What we’re looking to do is decrease the rate of government by reducing the amount of spending,” he said.

Resident Roy Thomas said that, while he was on town council, he had voted for tax increases but that he now feels the increases have gone too far.

“The plan was to use these tax increases to cut the deficit,” Thomas said. “In other words, this town council, I believe, in the last two or three budgets have used the tax increases to increase government spending. In other words, the more the taxpayers give you, the more you will spend. We’ve given you enough. It’s time to make the hard decisions and stop the tax increases.”

Thomas said he thought Pickrell presented great ideas and that he couldn’t understand why most of them wouldn’t be accepted.

“The real question here is who deserves the money – the town council to spend or the citizens in their pocket?” he said. “I challenge the town council and the town manager, if you have a better idea, the citizens deserve to hear it and I look forward to future meetings to see where that comes through.”

A town council workshop will be held March 1 at 4 p.m. to continue work on the 2012 budget.