A loss of $3.7 billion in ratables attributed to successful casino tax appeals could increase Atlantic City homeowners’ municipal tax bills by nearly 24 percent.
The preliminary budget introduced last month increases the amount to be raised by taxes about 2.2 percent, from $204.5 million to $209 million, but taxpayers will likely wind up paying for the 20 percent decrease in ratables.
For the average residential assessment of $229,000, the proposed rate means a $3,206 annual municipal tax bill, an increase of about $618 over last year.
“It’s too expensive for everybody,” said Pedro Perez, whose home on South Chelsea Avenue in Lower Chelsea is assessed at about $400,000. That would mean a municipal tax increase of about $1,080 for the year.
“People are not working,” he said.
“The city has actually kept expenses and total levy relatively flat” with the exception of the tax appeals, state Department of Community Affairs spokeswoman Tammori Petty said. But, “as casinos successfully appealed their taxes, the amounts the casinos traditionally had been paying are shifting to other taxpayers.”
The DCA does play a role, since the city — still under state oversight — has to have the final budget approved by the department’s Local Finance Board.
Under the proposed budget, the tax rate would rise to about $14 per $1,000 of assessed value compared with $11.30 last year. That does not include school, county or other types of property taxes.
Charlie Costello owns five row houses on Lincoln Drive in Lower Chelsea — with each assessed at about $100,000. That’s a total increase of about $1,350 for all of his properties. But he likely couldn’t sell them for more than $15,000 each, the Ventnor resident said.
“They’re destroying home values in this city,” he said. “They should look at the properties listed on the market sold and decide if a better idea than to raise taxes to bring in more revenue is to support the market to raise revenue.”
“The solution to this problem is for (a revaluation) to be done, which brings down other folks’ property values consistent with market trends over the past five years since the last revaluation was done,” Petty said. But because there has been no plan in place, “the rate goes up, and those who have not been appealing are the ones who suffer.”
In January, city and state officials said a revaluation would be too costly. The last one — completed in 2008 — cost $2 million, Revenue and Finance Director Michael Stinson said at the time.
Since then, there have been nearly 4,000 appeals each year.
That includes Lower Chelsea resident Joseph Trifiletti, who has lived on North Dover Avenue for 30 years. He appealed last year, and lowered his home’s value from $370,000 to $250,000, a decrease of more than 32 percent.
“I knew they would raise taxes,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying to sell. I can’t afford (to live here).
The majority of the city’s residents are renters, Trifiletti said. “(Mayor Lorenzo) Langford is forcing everyone else (out of) this city.”
Last year, the ratables totaled $18.1 billion with this year’s down to $14.4 billion.
Casino tax appeals resulted in significant declines, including Golden Nugget, whose assessment decreased 73 percent — from $654 million to $175 million.
Trump Plaza went down 66 percent, from $725 million to $250 million.
The largest monetary decrease was Bally’s Atlantic City, whose was assessed at $701 million after a previous value of $1.5 billion, a decrease of $799 million, or about 53 percent.
City Council will continue to work to try to lower the tax burden, said City Councilman Steven Moore, who heads the Finance and Revenue Committee.
“Salaries and wages — those are the things we’re looking at,” he said. “We’re looking to see if we can find the savings.”
He is still waiting to hear back from his fellow councilmen, whom he tasked with meeting with their respective department heads in order to discuss spending.
“We’ll do the best we can,” Moore said. “I don’t want my taxes to go up, either.”
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