Tax increases may be in future for Ocean View

In a heavily debated decision that could lead to increased taxes for Ocean View property owners, the Town Council made a 3-2 vote on several money-saving proposals at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

After review of the town’s mid-year financial review, Ocean View is threatened with a 57 percent tax increase over five years, starting in 2008, that would raise property taxes for a sample taxpayer from $500 to $787.

Councilman Roy Thomas brought attention to the 2007 fiscal year’s financial review last Tuesday, Oct. 31, at the Long-Range Financial Planning Committee meeting. Over the next five years, revenues are projected to be $2.174 million under planned amounts, attributed primarily to the negative slope of the real estate market causing a reduction of transfer taxes.

In addition, expenditures are expected to increase by $1.825 million higher than planned, accredited to the potential creation of the Emergency Reserve Trust Fund and the Capital Replacement Trust Fund.

“These are unfunded liabilities and we need to start accounting for them,” said Thomas. The two alternatives to address the financial deficit, warned Thomas, are to raise taxes or cut expenses.

He proposed that the Public Works Department and the Public Safety Department prepare a detailed analysis of all capital expenditures for the next five years. A preliminary report of the five-year comprehensive service plan is due Dec. 15 for Town Council review, with preliminary detailed analysis of capital expenditures due Dec. 31. Furthermore, Thomas’ motion called for no increase in committee headcount for the next five years and that all manpower studies for the Public Safety Department be canceled.

Councilman Norman Amendt opposed the motion. “I don’t see how we can afford not to hire people. Nobody can tell me we can’t afford more help now.”

“We’re asking the department heads to put together a five-year plan? We can’t even tell five years from now what the town is going to be,” said Councilman Bill Wichmann. “How can people react to these things we keep throwing at them? We’re telling them, ‘We’ll give you a plan for this. We’ll give you a plan for that.’ Then, about the time they get them, we have to tell them we change our mind.

“I don’t know how many of us will even be here in five years, sitting on the council, anyhow, to execute this plan,” Wichmann continued. “Our staff is worked beyond belief now. All these plans… Why don’t we just get some jobs done, instead of creating these fabulous plans that never get us anywhere?”

“It can be reviewed,” said Mayor Gary L. Meredith, after his favoring vote broke the 2-2 tie. “I vote for it as a plan for the future.”