Printable Version - State of the City Address - Feb. 22, 2018

February 22, 2018



State of the City Address
Mayor Jay A. Gillian
Feb. 22, 2018
Good evening.
It’s been quite a year, and we’ve accomplished a lot together. I want to thank Council for working with the administration again this year to continue all our important work.
I also want to praise the entire city team for their service to the community.  I challenge them every day to do more with less as we continue to add more and more projects to improve our infrastructure and way of life. 
I want to thank everybody who serves on a city board or commission and everybody who volunteers for a church or community group in town.  Finally, I want to thank all of the citizens who took the time to attend a meeting or to write or call the city. This feedback is vital to good government.
The great news is the state of the city is strong. And although it is strong, we still have challenges. I know it can be frustrating trying to negotiate all the projects in all four wards.
We’ve tackled major repairs to every part of Ocean City, and the work continues. All of the people who live here, own property here or vacation here share a love of Ocean City. Tonight I want to outline the steps we’ve taken to improve Ocean City and let you know about our plans going forward. I also want to let you know about our plans to remain “The Most Tax-Friendly Municipality in New Jersey for Retirees,” while maintaining our standing as “Best Beach in America” and “Best Beach in New Jersey.”
Let that sink in for a moment.  How many towns would love to be in either of those categories? We are in both. The people who love Ocean City vote for us year after year because of the great things we have been doing. And separately, an independent group recognized the work City Council and the city team does year in and year out to provide the first class services people come to expect in Ocean City -- in the most cost-effective manner possible.  As mayor, I will make sure our city is clean, safe and family-friendly and will commit the resources to make that happen. I know City Council and the city team are with me in our continued goals. We all share a common mission, so future generations can enjoy Ocean City.
These projects took advantage of more than $8 million in grants, and the city has submitted applications for millions more in grants. The city continues to experience strong tax base growth. We’ve added more than $100 million in ratables in each of the past four years. That makes this an ideal time to complete this ambitious list of capital projects.
City Council just passed a five-year capital plan that outlines more than $100 million in continued improvements, including $32 million for more road and drainage projects and $6 million for new special neighborhood flood remediation projects.
Some other highlights I’d like to mention:
Finance Director Frank Donato will explain more in his presentation on March 8, but this year’s draft budget includes a tax rate increase of just under a penny. The owner of a $500,000 home can expect to pay about an extra $50 in municipal taxes this year under the proposed budget
About $750,000 of the growth in the budget this year (or more than half) is attributable to debt service and capital. That is the cost of our major infrastructure improvements.  State-mandated pension increases make up almost another $300,000.
Our health-care premiums remain stable this year, which is great news for an expense that can see big changes from one year to the next in every industry. Salaries overall are relatively flat as we enter the last year of a four-year schedule with our major unions and bargaining groups.  The budget funds 258 full-time employees this year, up one from 2017, as well as a level number of part-time and seasonal hours to operate our dozens of facilities, programs and welcome centers throughout the year.
I’d like to stress that conservative financial planning will always be a priority of mine.  As we sit here today, our fund balance has lost $1 million in the past two years. We must remind ourselves constantly that we are a tourism-driven community, and the impacts of the summer season are felt not only by our private sector friends, but by city government as well.  In 2017, we saw revenues down or flat in many categories, due in large part to the rainiest July and August we’ve seen in many years.  I’m confident we will rebound and build our fund balance back up, but in the meantime we need to continue to be conservative on our revenue projections, and safeguard our fund balance. I would like to thank our finance team for its professional approach to our finances and for sound guidance and feedback.  Every year I ask my senior staff to create a budget at a zero increase, and with all the capital work we have committed to complete, having a proposed budget at under a penny is a testament to the entire leadership team. 
City Council recently honored a young Ocean City resident who had achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. It was a great honor for Andrew Leonetti and all of the Eagle Scouts we have honored. But when I think of Andrew, I remember a young man who came to City Council. He wasn’t happy with a proposed ordinance, but he spoke his mind respectfully and passionately ... and ultimately he helped reshape the new law to one that worked much better for everybody. Evan and Jesse Schmeizer were two other young students who came to Council with concerns about city work at Carey Stadium. Their input provided great value. 
Andrew, Evan and Jesse make me think of the Carnival Bayou residents who helped us refine our guidelines for private dredging, the Ocean Reef residents who spoke up about a proposal to dewater dredged material at the Shelter Road Recycling Center, or a man named Don Hepner who came to City Council when I first took office to tell us about a great game called Pickleball. City council and I could go on with a great number of other examples, but in each of these cases, the voice of the people was heard.
That’s government at its finest. All of us are here to represent the taxpayers who elected us. I think I can speak for Council when I say this: When someone comes to speak at a Council meeting, we listen and in many cases it leads to positive results. 
Thank you all. I’m looking forward to another productive year in Ocean City, and I want to keep working with City Council, the city team and all Ocean City taxpayers to make Ocean City a great place for generations to come.
Mayor's Proposed Budget (Feb. 22, 2018)
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