By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
VENTNOR – The Board of Commissioners on Thursday, Oct. 13 held a public hearing and approved two new bond orders after hearing from auditor Leon Costello of Ocean City’s Ford-Scott Associates about the city’s ongoing plan to stabilize finances through proper financial planning.
Costello said the commissioners were continuing with their long-term plan to make necessary capital expenditures without affecting the city’s annual debt service payments. Costello said the funding still needs to be spent in several previously approved “buckets” of money and earmarked for general capital and utility improvements.
He said the city may continue to approve new bond orders to fund major capital improvements in 2025, 2028 and 2031 based on the city’s needs. As new bonds are approved, the city may refinance temporary bonds to keep debt service payments stable, he said.
“You can spend these funds without impacting the city’s debt service payments,” he said.
Costello said it was important to maintain the city’s infrastructure and that there was “plenty of capacity” to make capital improvements requested by the school district. Ventnor School District is a Type I district with appointed board members. Although it funds its operating budget through taxation, the district may seek funding from the city to complete capital improvements to the facility.
The school board requested $1 million to $2 million to make upgrades to the Ventnor Educational Community Complex, which houses students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
“We have a lot of capacity at the school for capital projects that they might need,” Costello said. “We have also managed to maintain the school tax and control debt servicing.
After six years in power, the ‘Imagine Ventnor’ team have successfully improved infrastructure and facilities, making the town an attractive place to invest in improving existing homes or building new ones in their place. . The city’s annual tax base has increased every year, which also keeps taxes in check.
Mayor Beth Holtzman said the city’s equalized valuation was up $43.5 million from a year ago, representing a 21% increase in sale prices. Although the ratio of property assessment to market value is 8%, a 10% discrepancy would require the city to conduct a city-wide reassessment. The last reassessment was carried out in 2016, when the current commission was first created.
“We have to watch this carefully. If it goes to 10%, the state can force us to do a (revaluation), and we don’t want to do a state-mandated revaluation,” the mayor said.
Commissioner Lance Landgraf agreed that land and property values are on the rise.
“People want to be here and want to live here,” he said.
The $1.48 million utility obligation ordinance earmarks funds for the purchase of utility equipment, non-passenger vehicles, new fire hydrants and water meters, an excavator , replacing the beach showers on the boardwalk, purchasing a fuel tank and backup generator for the main water and sewage plant, making improvements to Well #5, installing safety upgrades at various locations, HVAC improvements at the main plant, replacing a water pump at a pump station, and various other unspecified improvements.
The $5.8 million general capital bond order will fund the purchase of vehicles, equipment and technology, including drones, for police, fire and public works and beach patrol, and will pay for various recreation infrastructure, drainage, bulkhead and road improvements.
The bond will also fund improvements to Fire Station No. 1 and the construction of a new band shelter in the waterfront park on Newport Avenue. According to Landgraf, after getting input from the musicians who play in the free concerts offered at the deteriorating gazebo, plans for the band’s shelter are being redesigned to improve the acoustics. The project should be ready for auction next month, he said.
“What you started doing six years ago, you needed a lot of prescriptions and capital, which has maintained solid financial stability and that comes through careful planning, not the seat of your pants at do things,” said Costello, who has been an auditor for 48 years. “If you go from town to town, the public likes to see capital projects. This improves the town and improves their values. Some grieve for doing capital projects that are not suitable.
Landgraf said Costello’s financial planning efforts were able to “get us out of the hole we were in.”
In other business, Holtzman, who has a background in county-level finance, introduced the new city comptroller, Amy Stover, who replaces chief financial officer Al Stanley on an interim basis. Stanley has resigned from his full-time position at Ventnor to work in another community, but will continue to work in a part-time advisory capacity until December 31, 2023. At that time, Stover will have all necessary state certifications. to be a financial director. officer. The board also approved the hiring of Quyen A. Harvey as senior accountant to provide additional support to the finance office.
“A strong financial department in any organization, including government, is your backbone. You have to have a clean house,” Holtzman said.
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