In 2007, the Mayor & City Council (M&CC) of the Town of Ocean City passed an ordinance that established a funding formula wherein an amount equal to 2 percent of the annual gross room revenue collected by hotels, motels, etc., goes to the town’s advertising budget.
From 2008 to 2018, the town’s advertising budget swelled from $2.2 million to $6.9 million. Just recently, a budget amendment increased the $6.9 million to $7.6 million.
The flawed ordinance will continue to overfund advertising, and the M&CC have no intention of correcting the situation.
As gross room revenues continue to increase, advertising dollars could quickly rise to $8 or $9 million. How much advertising does the town need?
More importantly, why are we in the advertising business anyway? Advertising is not a function of government. The business community should be funding advertising.
If the $7.6 million in room tax paid by tourists went into the general fund to support public safety, public works, and our beach as opposed to advertising, every property owner in Ocean City could see an 18 percent decrease in their annual property taxes.
Every business in town would enjoy that same reduction, and thus have funds to spend on advertising as they deemed fit.
Businesses could pool their advertising dollars with other businesses to increase their marketing exposure. The Chamber of Commerce could be involved in the coordination of advertising and marketing for the town and regional business community.
To complicate matters, the M&CC are also exploring the youth sports market.
Part of the justification for their recent request to raise the room tax to 5 percent is to explore a sports complex just outside Ocean City.
The M&CC have authorized a study to further determine the feasibility. However, the results of that study may be months away, and it remains to be seen whether the consultants come back with a favorable recommendation.
To date, there has been no polling of the citizens to determine if they will support such a facility.
A 2017 study conducted for Worcester County revealed that such a sports complex would require an annual subsidy of 25 percent, not to mention the cost to build it.
The county study also reflects that some individuals involved in putting together sports tournaments indicated concerns about the possibility of oversaturation of these facilities in the region.
The County Commissioners rejected the concept at that time, in part because their staff found the economic impact to be overly optimistic.
How many projects are the property taxpayers of Ocean City expected to subsidize? We already subsidize the convention center, Eagle’s Landing Golf Course, the airport, advertising and a whole host of “free” events. When is enough, enough?
Vincent dePaul Gisriel Jr.