State of the City Address – March 9, 2023

State of the City Address
Mayor Jay A. Gillian
March 9, 2023

Good evening. 

Ocean City has always been a great place to vacation and an even greater place to live.

Through good times and bad, recessions, hurricanes and pandemics, our economy has remained rock solid.

The state of the city remains strong. 

Especially since the pandemic, we’ve seen more and more people staying in town throughout the off-season. Metrics confirm that our daily population continues to grow, and our businesses see the benefits of this trend.

We continue to add new services while preserving the traditions we love. We continue to invest in infrastructure to meet the needs of today and tomorrow.

But Ocean City is not immune to inflation and the increased costs that towns throughout the nation are facing. Projected salary increases under new union agreements, increased pension costs, and the increases associated with our aggressive capital improvement program provide a challenge to our budget this year. 

Leon Costello, the independent auditor for Ocean City and other towns, said 2023 will be “a year like no other with all the increases” that local towns face. He said few towns will be able to keep local tax hikes to less than five cents.

In a moment, Finance Director Frank Donato will deliver a draft budget that anticipates a tax rate increase of less than two pennies. (See Mayor's Budget: March 9, 2023.)

In Ocean City, we have always prided ourselves on being fiscally conservative. Our responsible budgets make sure that we are always prepared for the good years and the bad years. 

The city team took a number of measures to limit the impact of this year’s budget on taxpayers.

Departments across the board made significant cuts to their budgets. 

Rather than paying a projected increase of more than 20 percent for health benefits in 2023, we were able to change providers and keep costs flat. I want to thank Liz Woods and the entire Human Resources team for all the work they did in making the change. This alone saved all taxpayers a penny on the tax rate.  

After paying a substantial increase for trash and recycling pickup last year, we were able to rebid the contract to keep costs stable under a new company. 

A price increase for beach tags will help offset the substantial costs of maintaining our beaches, protecting our swimmers and increasing accessibility. Even with the price increase, an entire summer on the beach in Ocean City costs about the same as a large pizza. 

The mayor’s budget also assumes more revenue from parking, and I’ll be asking for council’s support at a future meeting for some small rate changes. 

New contracts with our unions will be fair to both taxpayers and employees. At the same time, our commitment to public safety and attracting the best seasonal employees remains unwavering.  

And Ocean City continues to benefit from a growing tax base – we saw $262 million in new ratables this year. 

This year’s budget will help us invest in the capital improvements, enhanced services and public safety measures that define the quality of life in “America’s Greatest Family Resort.”

All of this work benefits our taxpayers. Home values continue to increase year after year. Owning a home in Ocean City remains one of the best investments anybody can ever make. 


We have accomplished a lot in the past year. We have a lot of plans for the next year. And we’re extremely fortunate to have a great team that makes it all happen. I want to take the time to thank the team for everything they do.

I mentioned Liz Woods and the HR department. 

And, of course, Frank Donato and the Financial Management team are second to none. They manage a $99 million budget and a bigger capital plan. Our audits are always clean. Our bond ratings are double-A. And our tax rate remains among the lowest in the state. 

Our Tax Office does exceptional work and deserves our thanks. I'd like to thank Joe Elliott and Terry Graff and their entire team.


Public safety will always be a top priority for my administration. We have two of the best departments in the state – led by Police Chief Jay Prettyman and Fire Chief Jim Smith.

Chief Prettyman hired 21 additional seasonal officers last summer to help us maintain our commitment to public safety. He has been a leader in coming up with innovative solutions to the challenges of juvenile justice reform.   

We will propose a new plan for a public safety building that will provide facilities for 21st century police services. Without going into too much detail right now, our plan will involve adding a substation at 8th Street and Boardwalk and converting the current police station on Central Avenue into a state-of-the-art facility. 

This will result in construction costs much less than what we had projected and will allow us to move forward with this critical improvement.

The Fire Department responds to more than 4,000 calls for service each year and response time is always exceptional. In addition to fighting fires, the department provides emergency medical services, water rescue, rope rescue and is a major contributor to the Cape May County Regional Urban Search Team. 

The department earned a Class 2 Insurance Services rating this year. That’s an honor achieved by only four percent of agencies in New Jersey. 


Vince Bekier leads our Operations and Engineering team. He has a massive job that oversees all of our infrastructure projects and all of our Public Works services. 

Here is just some of what his team has achieved and has planned: 

The Army Corps of Engineers recently completed rebuilding our north-end beaches. They are scheduled to return after the summer to replenish the south end. 

ACT Engineers helped the city renew its tip-to-tip dredging permit for the back bay, and our annual maintenance program continues to keep our waterways clear. They helped us secure $1.7 million in funding from the state to expand our 2023 program.  

We’re also seeking permission to continue with the next phase of restoring Shooting Island. This is part of an innovative program to restore living shorelines and help with flood mitigation. 

Neighborhood flood mitigation projects are underway at West 17th Street and at Waterway Road.

Another major project at Merion Park is under design, and construction is expected to begin in the fall. We have a shared services agreement with Cape May County that expands the Merion Park work to include Roosevelt Boulevard and parts of 34th Street, 35th Street, 36th Street and 37th Street. 

Another project currently under construction covers parts of the Haven Avenue corridor, including 13th Street, 14th Street, 20th Street, 21st Street, and the 2600 and 2700 blocks of Haven Avenue. Other fall road work, will include West Avenue from 18th Street to 26th Street, along with some nearby secondary streets.

The city secured a $3 million grant that elevated the 52 units in the seven-building Ocean Aire condominium complex.

Grants will help us install new electric vehicle charging stations at the Transportation Center at 9th Street and Haven Avenue in time for the summer.

We are in the process of installing an artificial turf field at Shelter Road to create more opportunities for our kids.

The replacement of the roof at the Ocean City Community Center is also ongoing. 

After 15 years, our agreement for maintaining solar panels on public buildings has expired, and we are currently considering options to expand the program. This is part of our commitment to green energy.

In the coming year, we will be renovating the entire 34th Street recreational complex, including replacement of the playground and tennis courts, the addition of family pickleball courts, and a new pavilion with more restrooms and more space for programs.

At Grimes Field between Fifth Street and Sixth Street, we will elevate the fields to improve drainage, add a new pavilion building with restrooms and a snack stand, upgrade lighting, add parking, and add bleacher seating. This complex is named in honor of Richard “Dick” Grimes and his wife, Marzita Grimes. They dedicated their lives to mentoring local youth, and these fields deserve to be the best. 

At the 16th Street lot next to the Community Center, we will clean up and landscape the property and add sidewalks. Then we will work with the public to develop a long-term plan for using the open space.

At Tennessee Avenue, we will replace the boat ramps and docks, and extend the bulkhead to protect the neighborhood from flooding.

We have expanded our beach mat program, and the city recently received a grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to expand accessibility even more. I want to thank Tom Londres and his family for helping to secure this grant.

Since I became mayor in 2010, Ocean City has secured more than $40 million worth of grants. And there’s more grant money available now than ever before. We have retained an experienced consultant to assist our in-house team with securing outside funding.

We are confident that new funding will help us complete a number of improvements, including the construction of a new terminal at the Ocean City Municipal Airport. I want to thank Leon Grisbaum for the generous $3 million gift that will help fund this project. Mr. Grisbaum shares a love for Ocean City, and the new terminal will be part of his legacy.


I want to thank Dan Kelchner and the entire Community Services team for putting together all of the recreation programs, special events, and special services that so many people enjoy. It’s another massive job, and his team does it well. 

We launched a pilot program to provide a summer jitney service in 2022, and an improved program will return for 2023. Providing reliable transportation was one of the recommendations of a recent economic development study.  

East Coast Falcons will be back on the boardwalk and downtown this year as part of an expanded gull abatement program. Ocean City was one of the first towns to experiment with this idea, and it has been extremely effective and popular.  

I’m proud that Ocean City is home to Special Olympics competitions in track and swimming, and our Recreation Department launched a pilot program to teach pickleball this year. I would like to see Ocean City become a second home for these athletes and their families. 

The city is meeting with the school district to consider options for expanding parking and recreation at 18th Street.

The Ocean City Pops and Vince Lee are preparing for another great summer of concerts. A special show featuring Kristin Chenoweth will open the season. Other special guests will include Judy Collins and Jackie Evancho. We are extremely fortunate and one of the only towns in the country to have an orchestra we can call our own.

At the same time, Bob Rose and BRE Presents are planning a great season to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Summer Concert Series. George Thorogood, Southside Johnny, Kenny G and Keb Mo are just a few of the great acts we will see this summer.

I want to thank Mike Allegretto, aide to the mayor, for his experience and knowledge in working with the orchestra, the Friends of the Pops, the Music Pier and so many other city programs and services. His experience is invaluable.


In the City Clerk’s Office, I want to thank Melissa Rasner for all of the services her team provides to the public. In addition to all of the team’s regular duties, they administer the open public records program, handling hundreds of requests each year. 

I’m extremely proud of the city’s commitment to transparency, and grateful for the all the work it takes. 


Getting accurate information and facts out to the public is vitally important, and I want to thank Doug Bergen for everything he does in providing communications to our residents.  


In the coming year, we will continue to look for opportunities to expand shared services.

Ocean City has a number of shared service agreements with our neighbors, and one of the best examples is with Sea Isle City and our business administrator, George Savastano.

George has been extremely effective in project management, budget control, and in leading the city team. 

The agreement results in savings to both towns and the benefit of shared knowledge and resources.


Finally, I want to thank our city solicitor, Dottie McCrosson, who has been a great advisor not only to City Council and me, but to the entire city team and all taxpayers.


I also want to remind everybody that County Commission Director Lenny Desiderio and I will host a public information session on offshore wind at 6 p.m. March 15 at the Ocean City Tabernacle.

I want to encourage you all to attend to learn more about offshore wind issues and the steps that the county and local towns have taken.


As always, everything we do is with the taxpayer in mind. 

I want to thank the entire city team, the senior staff, City Council and all taxpayers for working together this year to accomplish so much.

I also want to thank my family. In today’s world of opinions and social media, families can take the brunt of it. As Council knows, that’s part of our job. But our families did not sign up for it. I’m grateful for their patience and understanding. 

We have a lot of momentum going and we are fully prepared for another productive year for America’s Greatest Family Resort. 

In Ocean City, we have many volunteers, veterans, church members, business owners, the Chamber of Commerce and community groups working together. 

We are all one team.

Ronald Reagan said: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things.”

I’m looking forward to another great year.

Thank you and god bless you.


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