As the Ocean City Council continues to consider expanding paid parking in the resort, its members face the same dilemma that many business operators encounter.
In the absence of real revenue growth, how do you address rising expenses without sticking it to your customers and risking their continued support?
No pure and simple answer exists. Suppliers have to be paid, equipment has to be replaced, jobs have to be done, and employees don’t want to hear that rising wages aren’t in the picture.
With the exception of businesses’ tendency to depend on some employee turnover, they and local government take the same approaches: cut a little here, shift money there, and nibble at the edges of ways to bring in a few extra bucks.
Elected officials have been nibbling at the edges for years so they don’t upset their customer base, which would be the taxpayers. Hence the push for more paid parking, which could bring in close to a million dollars.
Although the premise of this push is that it targets day-trippers and won’t hurt anyone with a real stake in the resort, that’s not entirely so.
It isn’t as if day-trippers are complete freeloaders. They support small businesses, feed the meters the city does have, and, with luck, will become better established visitors as their income grows. In other words, day-tripping is Ocean City’s introductory offer.
Ocean City government does have a money problem, and a million here and a million there isn’t going fix it. Sooner or later, elected officials will have to look deep into their customers’ eyes and tell them something they don’t want to hear.