By Dan Moffett
With Ocean Ridge enjoying steadily rising property values and a robust balance sheet, town commissioners think they are well-positioned to spend more on repaving streets, and also spraying against mosquitoes to allay concerns about the Zika virus.
The town’s property values have risen about 7.5 percent over the last year, from about $825 million to $887 million.
In July, commissioners gave preliminary approval to a maximum tax rate of $5.35 per $1,000 of assessed value, the same rate as last year, and 7.2 percent above the rollback rate of $4.99 per $1,000 that would keep tax revenues flat.
This year’s proposed $6.62 million total budget has an increase in expenditures of roughly 8 percent over last year’s, when the town had to transfer $287,000 from its reserves to balance the books on the general fund.
The commission has decisions to make about capital projects, such as license plate recognition cameras that could cost about $250,000 and a new media system in the Town Hall auditorium for perhaps $30,000.
“The budget is a snapshot of our expectations for the year,” Vice Mayor Richard Lucibella said during an Aug. 23 workshop.
Here’s how that picture is coming into focus:
• Commissioners are supporting the idea of annually setting aside money in the capital fund to begin repaving streets. Mayor Geoff Pugh said the cost would be roughly $100,000 per mile, and the town has about 16 miles to resurface. Pugh suggested doing the project incrementally by spending $200,000 per year to finish all the paving in eight years.
• Commissioner James Bonfiglio said the town should consider expanding its insect spraying efforts to fight off mosquitoes and the threat of the Zika virus. The town currently spends about $62,000 to spray for no-see-ums and commissioners are considering boosting that to $100,000. Bonfiglio proposed putting it in the budget for the next two years.
“We could have serious problem if the feds and state don’t step up to the plate,” he said.
• Several commissioners told Town Manager Jamie Titcomb they wanted to see more detail in the budget numbers, saying they wanted to ensure that there was enough transparency for the public to understand exactly where tax dollars are going.
“I shouldn’t have to ask the question, ‘What is this? How are you spending the money?’” said Pugh.
• Titcomb told commissioners they might want to consider hiring an in-house building inspector/engineer as a more cost-effective way of keeping up with the increase in home construction and renovation the town is enjoying.
“We’ve been growing exponentially,” Titcomb said. Revenue from building permit fees is up 172 percent in the last year.
The commission has scheduled two public hearings on the proposed budget, for Sept. 12 and Sept. 21, each beginning at 5:01 p.m.