Could it be true? Could Atlantic City government essentially shut down if it doesn't get a state budget-cap waiver next month?
Well, I've already gotten a snarky e-mail or two on it. (Hey, Art Bunting left the opportunity for cheap shots wide open when he said, "There will be nobody left in the city working.")
But it's a serious matter. It's not all City Hall hyperbole.
The city is looking for a $10 million cap waiver from the state. In a $224 million budget, that shouldn't cause such draconian predictions. But the city didn't have all the information the state wanted at an Aug. 11 meeting, so now the date has been pushed off until September. If it's turned down for the waiver, layoffs couldn't begin until October. That's only a couple of short months to make up that entire $10 million shortfall.
And Atlantic City is far from only town in New Jersey not to have passed its 2010 budget yet, a full eight months into its fiscal year.
The problem is that the state's fiscal year starts July 1, and most municipalities are on a calendar year. State aid figures aren't even tentatively released until a few months into the municipal fiscal year, and aren't set until a few months after that.
This, too, is the reason that your last two property-tax payments of the year are so high - because the tax rate isn't struck until midway through the municipal budget year, so towns have to make up the difference.
Why haven't the fiscal years been synched, avoiding this problem? The state Department of Community Affairs says that it's up to municipalities to decide what fiscal year to be on. A few chose to run on the state's fiscal year, but not many.
Synching the two seems like such a no-brainer, I must be missing something. If somebody out there knows what I'm missing, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.