All but two of Atlantic County’s 23 municipalities face potential increases in their county tax rates under this year’s proposed county budget, according to figures released Wednesday by county Administrator Jerry DelRosso.
Tax rates would drop in Port Republic and Atlantic City, the latter of which would see the largest rate decrease, 27 cents, for an overall reduction of $418 on the average homeowner’s county bill.
County officials have blamed the increases for the other 21 municipalities on ongoing issues with the Atlantic City casino payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, program and refunds for successful tax appeals.
The decrease in county taxes for Atlantic City is on top of a local tax-rate decrease City Council introduced last month. The city’s proposed budget, the first since the state took over its finances, is $35 million less than last year’s and reduces the municipal tax rate by 5 percent.
The decrease in Atlantic City’s municipal tax rate is the first in a decade.
Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian did not respond to requests for comment.
DelRosso said the reason Atlantic City would see a dramatic decrease in taxes is twofold. The county will be refunding $12.5 million to the city for successful tax appeals, and the city’s ratable base was cut in half because the PILOT legislation took casinos out of the equation.
DelRosso, however, said actual localized county rates could change for all municipalities by the time a final budget is adopted.
Among the unknowns is whether the city’s settlement with Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, which cut the amount it owes to the casino by $93 million, will also reduce the county’s refund to Atlantic City, DelRosso said.
Either way, he said, most towns will see an increase, which he attributed to the county not getting 13.5 percent of the PILOT money that Gov. Chris Christie promised during a news conference last year.
The rest of the municipalities will have to make up the difference, he said.
Folsom, one of the county’s smallest municipalities in terms of square miles and population, will face the largest tax-rate increase, about 11 cents, or about $129 per homeowner.
Folsom Councilmen Ben Pagano and Greg Schenker said the increase is largely because properties are only at 65 percent of their equalized value. The borough has been mandated by the state to undergo a revaluation that will fix the issue. But it will come with a high cost.
“I’m just sad that this is happening,” Pagano said. “This is why we need countywide tax assessments. Something has to get done fast, and it has to be done the right way.”