By Joe Capozzi

Some unanticipated late-year windfalls for the town’s coffers will soften the blow on higher tax bills Ocean Ridge property owners can expect for 2021-22. 
Commissioners voted 4-1 on Sept. 21 to raise the tax rate for the first time in 10 years to $5.50 per $1,000 of taxable value from $5.35. Commissioner Geoff Pugh voted no.
In July, the commission set a tentative rate of $5.65 to balance an $8.8 million budget. But over the next two months, a financial analysis showed the town probably wouldn’t need to tap into the nearly $800,000 from reserves that had been earmarked for the budget year that ended Sept. 30. 
“The good news for us is we’ve had some windfalls,” Mayor Kristine de Haseth said. 
The biggest coup came from the building department, which will have brought in more than $1.1 million in revenue for the budget year that ended Sept. 30, Town Manager Tracey Stevens said. 
“We’ve never received a million dollars in revenue in the building department. That goes to show you how busy the building department is right now. We projected we’d only take in $350,000,” Stevens said Sept. 7.
Also, the town took in $116,000 from a lien related to code violations on an oceanfront property and will get small reductions in insurance costs next year. 
For the owner of a home valued at $1 million, the rate of $5.50 per $1,000 will add $387 to the tax bill for town services — $156 less than the increase would have been with a $5.65 rate.
If the commission had kept the rate at $5.35 per $1,000, taxes would still have gone up because property values increased 4.3% over last year to $1.15 billion. The town also would have needed to tap nearly $500,000 from reserves to balance the budget, a strategy that didn’t sit well with a majority of commissioners.  
The proposed budget calls for potentially tapping $331,000 from reserves. Whether that money will be needed won’t be known until next summer. 
Stevens said $650,171 was projected to go back into reserves by Sept. 30.
The tax rate has been $5.35 per $1,000 for the past nine years except for 2018, when it dropped to $5.25 per $1,000.
 Pugh said he didn’t think a tax rate increase was needed.
“I understand saving for a rainy day, but I also understand when you don’t need to do something. It’s not imperative,” he said.
The need to use reserve money in the new budget is based on increases in payroll and benefits outlined in the town’s union contract along with drainage and infrastructure maintenance, Stevens said.

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Comments

  • G-d bless Commissioner Pugh.   He's the only one that respects the feelings of town residents.  You can't just keep taxing people more and more without consequences.   There is no money tree...   Folks in Ocean Ridge are living on nest egg savings that are being ravaged by inflation.  Shrinking nest eggs and raising taxes are a recipe for disaster.  Aside from Mr. Pugh, these people are tone deaf, or arrogant, or both.  

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