For the first time in Atlantic City's history, the Special Improvement District may be split into a two-tiered assessment structure recognizing that properties in the Marina District do not receive the same benefits as properties in the rest of the city.
The proposal to be considered today by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority's Special Improvement District committee was developed as part of a settlement agreement stemming from litigation filed by Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. The casino has contested its inclusion in the district, saying more benefits are focused on the Boardwalk properties.
Under consideration is a proposal that would call for Marina District properties, including the district's three casinos, to pay 75 percent of their full assessments owed to SID based on property value.
Currently, all commercial and business properties in the Tourism District pay $38 per $100,000 of assessed value annually. Under the new proposal, Marina District properties would pay $28.50 per $100,000 of assessed value.
"There's also a recognition that there are differences," CRDA Chief Legal Officer Paul Weiss said. "When CRDA was first working on this, there was 90 days to figure out how to best execute it, and it was decided it was best if all the properties were treated equally. Upon reflection, the recommendation is that the Marina District is somewhat different."
If approved, the new rate would take effect for the remainder of the year. That new rate, however, is expected to create an estimated $300,000 shortfall in SID's $6.9 million budget for 2013.
CRDA has proposed to fill that gap for the remainder of the year to ensure that no services are lost in the district, officials said.
Going forward, however, it's unclear if the CRDA will continue to supplement SID funding at the same rate. CRDA also could consider increasing the assessments or decreasing services. Those decisions will be left to the SID committee and the CRDA board.
Until April 2011, the SID was a nonprofit organization working to improve the city's business community with a zone that included major areas along the Boardwalk, Atlantic and Pacific avenues. With the inception of the Tourism District, however, SID was absorbed by the CRDA, and its boundaries were changed to reflect the boundaries of the Tourism District.
The rate of $38 per $100,000 of assessed value was in place when the district was a nonprofit organization and was carried over when the district became a division of CRDA.
The assessments paid by property owners also remained the same from 2012 to 2013, even as the assessed value of the Tourism District fell from $15.4 billion in 2012 to $14.2 billion in 2013. To make up for the nearly $450,000 decrease in revenue to the SID and increase services, CRDA more than doubled its subsidy.
The subsidy provided by CRDA in 2013 is nearly $1.6 million, up from $760,000 in 2012.
A majority of the increase is attributed to the addition of dozens of Boardwalk Ambassadors. The program was revamped last year as the team that is part hospitality staff and part neighborhood watch was increased from 15 to 60. The ambassadors clad in neon uniforms are intended to develop a cleaner and safer Boardwalk.
The budget for the ambassadors increased from $1.5 million in 2012 to $2.3 million in 2013, due in part to the addition of health benefits for new hires.
The committee meets at 1 p.m. today at the CRDA's offices and will listen to public comment before its vote. CRDA's full board also must vote on the recommendation of the committee.
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