Atlantic County’s proposed 2013 budget is be less than last year’s budget, Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson announced Tuesday, though the tax rate and tax levy would increase.
If approved, the $194 million budget, about $100,000 less than last year’s plan, would raise the tax rate by about 3.4 cents, or about 11 percent, to 34.4 cents per $100 of assessed value.
The amount to be raised by taxes would be about $155.8 million — $3 million more than last year.
Calling 2012 “particularly challenging” due to the double impact of the June storm and Hurricane Sandy in October, Levinson said in his statement that “the year ahead will present its own challenges. Some of these are knowable, such as a declining tax ratable base, a stagnant regional economy and high unemployment. Others are not.”
Atlantic County’s equalized tax valuation has dropped by approximately $7 billion from its height of about $58.3 billion in 2008, Levinson said.
“Our frugality when times were good is paying off today,” Levinson said. “We did not incur a large debt or expand services. We held our operational costs at a minimum. Now, when times are more difficult, we are still able to develop a budget that meets the needs of our citizens and is responsible to our taxpayers.”
Freeholder Chairman and fellow Republican Frank Formica called it “a good budget,” adding that the administration “was able to take a really bad situation and do they best they could with it.”
Formica said the loss of taxable income through appeals “is just a portent of things to come. If Borgata and Revel win their appeals, that will be another billion or two, and I don’t know what Atlantic City is going to do. ... But the county is in no such difficulty. We provide services second to none, and we’re not laying off large numbers of people.”
The tax rate, Formica added, “is no higher than it was 12 years ago,” when it was 44 cents per $100.
The newest freeholder, Democrat Colin Bell, said that he would have to study the budget in detail before forming any opinion.
“It looks like with the decrease in valuations, some tax increase is unavoidable,” Bell said. “I just want to take a look at it and see if there’s anything we can do to minimize the tax increase.”
An ordinance Bell had introduced requiring the full text of all proposed resolutions and ordinances to be posted on the county website prior to every meeting was approved unanimously at Tuesday’s meeting in Atlantic City. Currently, the public has access only to the agenda.
“I’m certainly glad it passed unanimously in a bipartisan manner, Bell said. “I’m looking forward to coming up with new ways of making it even more transparent. ... I’ve been talking about it for two years, since I ran in 2011. I’m just glad it’s happening now.
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