Budget & Capital Plan Top City Council Agenda Thursday

Budget & Capital Plan Top City Council Agenda Thursday

Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian
In what is likely to be one of City Council’s most important meetings of the year, Mayor Jay Gillian will deliver his annual “State of the City” address and present his 2016 budget to the governing body on Thursday.

Council is also expected to vote Thursday on the mayor’s proposed $98.5 million capital plan that will serve as a blueprint for major upgrades and construction projects throughout Ocean City for the next five years.

City spokesman Doug Bergen said the Gillian administration continues to work on the final details for both the mayor’s address and budget. Bergen indicated that Gillian will not be ready to comment to the media until he delivers his speech to Council at 7 p.m. Thursday in City Hall.

The budget will prioritize the city’s spending for the upcoming year and set the local property taxes for homeowners.

Gillian gave a sneak preview of his spending plan in remarks that were posted last week in his “Mayor’s Update” forum on the city’s website.

“The city team is hard at work putting the final touches on a budget plan that will meet my challenge to maintain and exceed all of the city services we’ve come to expect and to continue to make improvements to all parts of the city — with no impact to property taxes,” Gillian said in his remarks.

The mayor added that he and Council have agreed in recent years that the best approach to budgeting is to “bring forward a true budget the first time, without excess or fluff.”

“At this time, I’m confident that we will meet this challenge in a fiscally responsible manner,” he said. “I look forward to working with City Council to finalize the budget and approve the capital plan in coming weeks.”

In addition to focusing on the mayor’s budget, Council will also scrutinize his proposed five-year capital plan. The plan will guide the city as it undertakes a series of improvements to the roadways, beaches, Boardwalk, lagoons and public facilities through 2020.

A complete list of proposed projects in the capital plan can be found on the city’s website at ocnj.us/capital-projects.

Big-ticket items in the plan include more than $34 million in roadwork and drainage improvements that are concentrated in the city’s flood-prone areas.

Tidal surges that occurred during Tuesday’s coastal storm and last month’s powerful nor’easter left some streets underwater and once again exposed just how vulnerable the island community is to flooding.

Another centerpiece of the capital plan is a $20 million dredging program to remove mud and silt from the clogged lagoons along the back bays.

Council is expected to vote Thursday on a bond ordinance that will finance the bulk of a $17.5 million funding package for some of the capital improvements planned for this year.

The most expensive item in the bond ordinance is $10 million for the dredging program in 2016. Gillian has proposed spending an extra $5 million in both 2017 and 2018 for dredging projects.

More than $2 million is targeted this year for improvements to the Boardwalk’s commercial zone, which will be rebuilt between Seventh and 12th streets.

Other major initiatives include $1.4 million for new city vehicles and equipment and $1 million for repairs and rehabilitation to public facilities.

Overall, the $98.5 million capital plan represents a $19 million increase over the previous five-year capital program. When he unveiled the new capital plan last month, Gillian explained that it would allow the city to catch up on long-neglected projects.

Funding will come from a combination of federal, state and local money. The city is able to capitalize on its good bond rating, low interest rates and rising tax ratables to pursue its most ambitious capital program in years.

The Gillian administration estimates the capital plan will add 4 cents to the tax rate on the city’s debt service by the end of the five years. For the owner of a home assessed at $500,000, that would mean an additional $200 in taxes to cover debt service by 2020.