By Joe Capozzi

Town commissioners Sept. 19 approved a tax rate of $5.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, the same as the current rate, to pay for a $10,087,221 budget for the year that starts Oct. 1. 
Homeowners will still see a rise in their town tax bills because of an 18.26% increase in property values across Ocean Ridge. 
The new spending plan, 14% higher than the current year budget, uses $36,000 from the town’s reserves.
No one attended the final public hearing Sept. 19 when commissioners unanimously approved the spending plan and tax rate without comment.
But at the first public hearing on Sept. 6, commissioners voiced support for departing Town Manager Tracey Stevens’ final spending plan.
“To balance the budget with $36,000 is a pretty good job and without raising the tax rate. Even though it is a tax increase, still we didn’t raise the tax rate,’’ Commissioner Geoff Pugh said. 

Related: South County's new tax rates, taxes and budgets

With a $5.50 tax rate, the owner of a $1 million home will pay $6,504 in town taxes next year, about $1,000 more than was paid this year. 
Some commissioners said they would have liked to lower the rate but agreed the current rate is needed to help pay for much-needed improvements to stormwater and drainage infrastructure.
“The town is getting older and that’s why we couldn’t reduce the tax rate,’’ Commissioner Steve Coz said.  
“The main infrastructure issues we have are draining and water pipes,’’ he said. “When public works or outside contractors come in to deal with our pipes, they are shocked because they are from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. We are lucky enough to have a couple from the ’70s. So it’s an expense that’s going to be with us for a few years, hopefully not more.’’
At the Sept. 6 meeting, commissioners learned their new budget will not have a $10,000 contribution that had been promised from the Crown Colony Club for the installation of a crosswalk.
Stevens said the town has spent $36,000 on the project, which originally was expected to cost $20,000, half of which would have been offset by the donation. But Stevens said Crown Colony may not make good on its promise because of unexpected repairs to a sea wall.
The town will pay the $10,000 from its contingency fund. Coz said the club is working on a plan to make good on the donation.
The budget’s final public hearing Sept. 19 was the first commission meeting with interim Town Manager Lynne Ladner. It lasted six minutes.
In other financial news, town officials announced Sept. 6 that Ocean Ridge has received its second chunk of federal American Rescue Plan Act money in the amount of $489,835.

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