City Hopes to Use Stimulus Funds to Offset Shortfall in Budget

first_imgBy MADDY VITALEOcean City is going by the motto that some things are worth the wait by putting the introduction of its budget on hold to see where $7 million in federal stimulus money it received can go to make up for a shortfall that resulted from 2020 revenue losses.The city is proposing an $87.4 million municipal budget for 2021 that reflects financial challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including the unprecedented decline last year of key sources of revenue.And because of a significant loss in revenue, the budget would include a 2.2 cent increase in the local property tax rate.That is something that Ocean City’s Chief Financial Officer Frank Donato noted Wednesday would not be the case if some of the stimulus funding can go toward the budget.“The city anticipated utilizing a portion of the stimulus funds to, at a minimum, make up for our revenue losses from 2020, which would help the currently proposed 2021 budget,” Donato said. “But at this point, that continues to be on hold until we receive official guidance from the state.”The Ocean City Aquatic & Fitness Center was one of the facilities that suffered revenue losses during the COVID shutdown. (Photo courtesy of the Ocean City Community Services Department)Overall, the city suffered a $1.3 million decline in revenue in 2020 compared to the previous year because of the pandemic shutdown. Significant drops in revenue occurred in parking fees, the municipal court system and at the Aquatic & Fitness Center, among other areas, Donato pointed out.Donato unveiled a tentative 2021 municipal budget at the March 26 City Council meeting. The hope was to introduce the budget for a vote at the April 22 meeting.However, while Ocean City and other New Jersey communities await Gov. Phil Murphy’s guidance on what can be done with the stimulus funding, there will be a slight delay with the budget.“We got word the other day that the state was about to release the guidance, but the governor put a hold on it,” Donato said. “So, we are going to delay our budget introduction by another meeting in hopes that we get something between now and then.”Donato said that instead of the April 22 City Council meeting, the tentative plan is to introduce the budget at the May 13 meeting.He indicated during the March 26 City Council meeting that he is confident that some of the stimulus aid can be incorporated to reduce the proposed tax increase.Stimulus funds, however, may generally be used for COVID-related programs and to help offset revenue losses.Parking revenue declined in 2020 amid the pandemic. Ocean City officials are looking to the summer season of 2021 to make up for some financial losses in 2020 amid the pandemic.last_img

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