City Council

City Council meets Wednesday in Atlantic City.

Staff photo by Edward Lea

Atlantic City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to issue $103 million in bonds to help cover tax rebates ordered by appeal case settlements this year.

The money will refund casinos for what are now considered overpayments under those settlement terms.

Noncasino taxpayers are due another $5 million or so on top of that. The city will pay those costs out of general funds as usual.

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City officials expect to resolve pending appeals filed by Revel, Borgata and Tropicana next year. They want to avoid settlement deals involving tax credits. The bonds being issued now — and last year’s $35 million — will be used to pay refunds instead of crediting the casinos.

Since 2010, the citywide assessment has decreased about $4.5 billion to about $16 billion. That amount will not be official until the ratable base is certified early in 2013, City Revenue & Finance Director Michael Stinson said.

That devaluation means about $40 million less in tax revenue.

Tax appeals and their financial impacts are the main reasons cited by the state Local Finance Board and Division of Local Government Services for extending financial oversight of City Hall for a third year. State supervision began as a yearlong arrangement meant to last through 2011.

Resident Tom Forkin, who was city solicitor during Mayor Lorenzo Langford’s first term ending in 2005, questioned why state officials working to improve financial operations in the municipality never come to Atlantic City Council meetings.

They are never invited, said Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs, which includes DLGS.

“We would consider any invitation to attend a particular meeting with a proposed agenda where our participation would contribute to the meeting,” Ryan wrote Wednesday in an email. “If the City has questions, they can call the Division of Local Government Services at any time. The Division does review the City’s meeting agendas and review their ordinances so we are aware what they are doing.”

In other business Wednesday, City Council voted unanimously to repeal two local laws called the “animal house ordinances” in a lawsuit filed by resort landlords.

The Atlantic City Landlords Coalition challenged regulations requiring residential property leases span at least 90 days. Put in place in July 2011, the guidelines were intended to deter raucous partying that 1st Ward residents blamed on summer vacation renters and complained was ruining their neighborhood.

Atlantic County Superior Court Judge William C. Todd III ordered the city two months ago to temporarily stop enforcing the ordinances until the case could be argued before him. Instead of continuing, however, the city decided to rescind the ordinances — for now. Some city councilmen say they could reinstate similar rules rewritten to better withstand legal challenges.

Council also unanimously adopted an ordinance to establish a police chaplain program. The initiative would coordinate with religious leaders in the community so they can be summoned whenever a juvenile is arrested.

Vineland and Trenton have similar initiatives in place, said Business Administrator Ron Cash.

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