Ocean View finalizes budget numbers

The town of Ocean View discussed the fiscal 2006 budget one final time at a March 14 workshop, paving the way for a formal vote at next month’s council meeting (April 5).
• The town expects to bring in $1.76 million in revenues over the next year, the lion’s share from real estate taxes and real estate transfer taxes ($1.35 million).

• The town budgeted $7.97 million in expenses and capital projects.

• Big capital expense projects included the new police station plus security and phone systems ($3.24 million total), $2 million for the central water system (the remaining $1.8 million to be budgeted next year) and $800,000-plus for public works.

• Big public works capital expenses included $265,000 in street drainage projects (primarily in Country Village and West View), a $250,000 six-bay garage (vehicles are presently left sitting out in the weather) and $190,000 for bike paths and sidewalks.

Nearly $5 million in grants and loans and $1.3 million transferred from reserves will make up the difference between revenues and expenditures.

Town Manager Kathy Roth anticipated a steep decline in revenues from building permits. She said Bear Trap had generated nearly 200 permits per year, but that project was now complete, and Wedgefield and Avon Park should wrap up this year as well.

Roth expected building permits to pick up again in 2007, with the advent of the Fairway Village project, and remain constant until 2011.

The town plans to institute a five-cent increase to building permit fees, bringing the new fee to 25 cents per square foot.

Other budgetary pressures included escalating insurance costs — a 10 percent increase for property and liability and a 20 percent increase for workers’ compensation and hospitalization.

There was some discussion about health plan alternatives. Council Member Bill Wichmann noted a “catastrophe policy,” with a high deductible, that employees could contribute toward (but not with the “use it or lose it” proviso).

Council Member Eric Magill pointed out the plan he used personally, a “health savings account,” which followed along similar lines.

However, he also said the town had traditionally offered a good benefits package to offset a modest payroll.

Roy Thomas of Norwalk Avenue questioned the town’s across-the-board increase in many areas (payroll, advertising, communications, etc.) going forward.

“I don’t like the automatic five percent, without really knowing what you’re budgeting for,” he said.

Magill said the committee had settled on a number, but line items might or might not increase by that amount.

The town has budgeted $151,000 for a town-wide property reassessment this year.

According to Roth, the long-range financial planning committee had floated the idea of a property tax increase (but decided against it, for the time being). “Before we even considered it, we wanted to make sure we had a level playing field,” she said.

She anticipated the town would not receive any additional revenue in the wake of such a reassessment — typically, equal thirds increased, decreased and stayed the same.

Council Member Eric Magill suggested a charter change that would allow the town to reassess on a 10-year basis, rather than every five years.

In other business, council approved a water project to will serve Bob Harris’ pending railroad restaurant at 27 Atlantic Avenue (Route 26).

Tidewater Utilities will run most of the water mains along West Avenue, with an 840-foot section along Route 26.

Tidewater Utilities agreed to relinquish the Certificate of Public Convenience Necessity (CPCN) to the town, without compensation, after the Ocean View’s central water system comes on line.

If Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) improvements require that the pipes be moved, that work would be done at no expense to the town, and the town won’t be responsible for purchasing easements along that section of water main.

Tidewater agreed to avoid lane closures on Route 26 past May 26, the Thursday before Memorial Day.

Ocean View agreed to purchase the water main at whatever per-foot price the town pays for its own system, or whatever Tidewater paid — whichever is less.