Petitions from Ocean City residents against increased advertising | News

An Ocean City resident who has a knack for stirring up controversy when it comes to government spending is about to stop the city council’s motion to increase the amount of council tax collected that goes toward advertising.

Vince Gisriel has asked for 807 signatures to put a referendum on the ballot that lets Ocean City voters determine whether to allow the tourism department’s budget to increase by 0.2% between 2023 and 2025, a measure which was unanimously approved by the city council on December 20.

Earlier that month, Tourism Director Tom Perlozzo outlined three options that would fund his division, although he preferred one that levies a percentage of gross room tax revenue collected on all hotel rentals. the station.

Under this option, the current 2.0% that funds the department would be increased to 2.2% by 2025 – 2% would go to the department in 2023, 2.1% in 2024 and 2.2% in 2025.

In 2019, the city increased the tourist tax from 4.5% to 5%, although there was some confusion over how the additional 0.5% should be distributed. Of the half-cent increase intended for advertising, the percentage, which started at 1.4% in 2009, increased to 2% in 2012 and has remained there ever since.

Gisriel needed to collect 612 signatures to put the issue to a vote, although he collected 195 more than needed.

According to the city charter, affected citizens must muster 40% of those who voted in the last city council election. If the measure is rejected, the council will have to go back and revisit the subject.

Gisriel said he went door-to-door to collect the more than 700 signatures he collected himself – the other signatures were collected by volunteers who helped.

He paid $75 to get a list of voters and visited them at their homes.

The effort, he explained, was worth it.

Gisriel’s main criticism of the ordinance is that it allows the city to continue to overspend.

In 2007, the city council passed a measure to increase the tourist tax to be collected from 4 to 4.5%, with an agreement that the Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association wanted half of one percent be spent on advertising, said Gisriel.

But once the measure was implemented, it was phased in and in 2021, 2% of every dollar went to advertising.

In July 2021, council tax collected rose to nearly $7.5 million, an increase of 324%.

Gisriel’s concern is that while the advertising budget has increased, the general fund has only increased by 30%.

“It created this imbalance,” he said.

Gisriel said $1.76 million from room tax went to advertising in 2007.

“Moving to $7.46 by 2021…that’s a phenomenal default. He should never have been adopted.

Gisriel asked the council to fix the flaw.

Order 2021-24, he said, “exasperates the situation, and this year they are on track to spend over $8 million on advertising.

When Perlozzo first presented the city council with the three funding options in early December, councilman Peter Buas asked the director of tourism about his plans for the increased funding.

Perlozzo told Buas at the town hall that he had no plan for the 0.2%, saying, “Hypothetically, we don’t know what will happen by 2024.”

Buas, in turn, said approving the measure was funding something that doesn’t exist, suggesting it was premature.

Still, Buas and the other six advisers approved it on December 20.

Gisriel is no stranger to petitioning against municipal legislation.

In 1988, he said, he petitioned against the development of skyscrapers in the resort after the council passed ordinances allowing the proliferating growth of skyscrapers. When put on the ballot, voters voted 3 to 1 to reject the development.

The most successful campaign Gisriel has led was in 2013, when he collected 1,770 signatures to put in place a measure that would have allowed parking meters along side streets. Voters reversed the council’s decision.

Although Gisriel has submitted the petition, a lot has to happen behind the scenes before it can be put on the ballot on November 8.

City Clerk Diana Chavis said when Gisriel submitted the petition it had 168 pages with 807 signatures.

The city’s seven-person election oversight board will review each name on the petition and cross-check it against the voters list, and according to Chavis, it will be reviewed in an open setting.

Once the names are confirmed, the council will present its findings to the city council to determine whether to put the referendum on the ballot or return to the drawing board with the ordinance.

Gisriel said he was ready for the board to review the signatures.

“Every time you do a petition you want to collect additional names in case some are invalid,” he said, adding that he can certify that 99.9% of the signatures he collected were from real voters. “Of the nearly 700+ that I collected myself, there were only two that I couldn’t find on the voters list.”

This story appears in the print version of Ocean City Today on February 11, 2022.

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