ATLANTIC CITY — The financially ailing resort was forced to pick up the tab for security for the 2015 Miss America pageant because the organizers couldn’t pay for it, state officials said in August emails obtained by The Press of Atlantic City.
The Miss America Organization couldn’t contribute to the pageant-related costs, Thomas Gilbert, district commander for the Atlantic City Tourism District, said in emails to city officials that were obtained through an Open Public Records Act request.
City officials said the total was approximately $65,000.
“As a backdrop to my persistence, please note that the Pageant came back to NJ several years ago with a substantial cash infusion from the state, with the current Governor, Lieutenant Governor and County Executive all directly involved in bring the pageant back to AC,” Gilbert wrote in an email, dated Aug. 13, to Emergency City Manager Kevin Lavin and state monitor Ed Sasdelli. “At this time, the MAO’s fiscal position precludes them from contributing to security cost for the pageant.”
According to Miss America’s most recent federal filings, the organization spent $882,278 more than it took in during 2013.
Miss America officials have said in the past the deficit was because the organization put on two pageants in one year.
After an eight-year stint in Las Vegas, Miss America returned in 2013 to its birthplace in Atlantic City. The event was lured back to the city with promises of a $7.3 million state subsidy package through 2015.
A contract extension for Miss America is likely to be complicated by a new five-bill package designed to stabilize Atlantic City’s finances. A key part of the plan will divert $25 million to $30 million in annual Casino Reinvestment Development Authority funding, part of which subsidizes the pageant, to the city to help pay off municipal debt. Gov. Chris Christie has not yet signed it into law.
Despite the deficit, Josh Randle, chief operating officer for the Miss America Organization, said the group is on sound financial footing. Randle did not have an estimate of how much the pageant cost the public. The city is responsible for the costs associated with police and cleaning the Boardwalk after the parade.
“Consistent with other public events and parades held in Atlantic City, the Miss America Competition relies on various public agencies to provide security to ensure the safety and well-being of the contestants and the public at large. Security for the parade this year was provided by various federal, state and local agencies, and the Miss America Organization was not privy to these collective costs,” he said in an emailed statement.
In a subsequent email, Gilbert wrote that he had already talked to city officials about the funding issues.
“Arch (Liston, city administrator) and I already discussed; he indicated the City will address the security cost,” the email from Gilbert stated. “When mtg w/councilmen (Frank) Gilliam/ (George) Tibbitt, Josh (Randle) briefed current MAO financial challenges and I reminded them of the State Aid presently flowing to the City.”
Gilbert didn’t address his specific comments about the financial health of the Miss America Organization, but said Wednesday the goal of the emails and meetings was to keep the public safe.
Councilman George Tibbitt said Wednesday the city’s troubled finances make it more and more difficult to continue to pay for Miss America-related expenses. The city will use tax revenue to pay for the cost associated with the pageant. Earlier this year, the state worked with the city to close a more than $100 million budget deficit.
“Most towns have a hotel tax or room taxes to pay for these type of things. We have none of that,” Tibbitt said.