ATLANTIC CITY - Local businesses will get a $2.9 million bill to cover costs of enhancing the streets, storefronts and landscaping throughout the Atlantic City Tourism District during the remainder of this year.
The money will go to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to improve areas most traveled by visitors.
But some commercial property owners - such as Nikki Krocos - are not happy.
"So you mean I pay $14,000 (in city taxes), and on top of it I have to pay more to maintain the street?" said Krocos, an Egg Harbor Township resident who owns a grocery store at 404 Oriental Ave.
But Mike Hauke, owner of Tony Boloney's pizzeria down the street from Krocos, doesn't mind so much.
"Maybe I'd have that view if I'd been here for the past 40 years," said Hauke, who opened his restaurant two years ago. "But in my mind, a couple extra bucks ... seems fair to me. Whether it's street cleaners, police on patrol, marketing dollars - I have no problem with (the tax) personally as long as that stuff continues."
Hauke's and Krocos' properties are among 1,296 within the Tourism District boundaries subject to an assessment of $38 per $100,000 annually, or $9.50 per $100,000 quarterly, to fund work by the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority's Special Improvement Division, authority Chief Financial Officer Val Berzins said Thursday.
Most of those properties - 1,005 - already are paying the assessment because they were part of the area where SID ran facade and other improvement programs as an independent agency until the spring. That's when SID became a division within the CRDA under state laws establishing the district and other initiatives aimed at improving tourism in Atlantic City.
Tourism District boundaries encompass more than twice the geographic area that the Special Improvement District did, including 291 additional nonresidential properties such as those owned by Hauke and Krocos. They will pay the special improvement assessment for two quarters, not the entire year, because the district did not launch until April 19.
That means Hauke will pay $85 based on his restaurant's $449,500 assessment, and Krocos will pay about $115 for her $603,500 property, which she leases to Ramy's Grocery, steps from the site of Revel Entertainment Group's casino project.
In addition to covering expansion costs, the money will be used to buy landscaping equipment and increase the Boardwalk Ambassador program from 20 to 40 people who patrol the elevated walkway during the peak summer season, Berzins said.
Although the equipment purchases are a one-time expense, the CRDA could use tax revenue to pay for capital projects and other initiatives within the Tourism District, he said.
Some of those costs are expected to be offset by savings realized through casino deregulation. Those laws also called for a nonprofit to be the marketing arm of the CRDA. Funded by savings realized through the legislation's deregulatory measures, the Atlantic City Alliance must give anything left over from its budget to the CRDA's Tourism District and Community Development Fund, Berzins said.
"At the outset, our primary goal is to showcase Atlantic City as the entertainment capital of the East Coast as well as a year-round destination resort that is safe and clean. It will take a concerted effort by everyone to reach these goals and I am very much looking forward to doing my part," said Don Marrandino, alliance chairman and Caesars Entertainment Eastern Division president, overseeing Bally's, Caesars, Harrah's Resort and Showboat casinos, in a written statement.
The casino representatives who comprise the alliance have started meeting monthly and are working with CRDA officials to figure out how they will execute their responsibilities, he said. For now, the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority continues to handle marketing, in addition to convention sales. Eventually, the ACCVA will focus on conventions and also become a division of CRDA.
Before that transition, SID finalized its 2011 budget, but the CRDA must approve the portion for April through December of this year. Officials will vote today on that $4.5 million financial plan. If it is approved as expected, officials will mail the tax bills later this month or in early September, Berzins said.
The notices also will provide information on the public hearing for anyone with questions about their assessment. Officials have not yet set the hearing date, Berzins said.
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