ATLANTIC CITY — City Council on Wednesday adopted a $207.7 million operating budget for the current year that will keep property taxes flat for residents and business owners.
“This is the definition of good government,” said Council President Marty Small Sr. after Wednesday evening’s public meeting. “For the fourth straight year, the residents of Atlantic City can go to sleep knowing that there will be no tax increase.”
The adopted 2019 budget is $26 million, or 11%, less than last year. The city will collect more than $46 million from property taxes this year, a decrease of nearly $6.5 million compared to 2018.
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Atlantic City remains under state fiscal oversight following the Municipal Recovery and Stabilization Act of 2016, and the budget must be approved by Trenton. The state Department of Community Affairs worked with city officials to craft this year’s budget, as it has done since the takeover began.
During his budget presentation to council Wednesday night, Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr. credited the state and council, in addition to his administration, for putting the budget together.
“We’re all serious about making sure we’re spending our taxpayers’ dollars wisely,” Gilliam said.
In 2016, 2018 and 2019, the governing body kept the municipal tax rate flat, while in 2017 city officials approved a reduction.
The municipal tax rate will remain $1.79 per $100 of assessed value. When combined with the county and school district, city residents’ effective tax rate in 2018 was $3.85 per $100 of assessed value.
For the average assessed home in Atlantic City valued at $121,200, the municipal tax bill would amount to roughly $2,180, Gilliam said.
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Sixth Ward Councilman Jesse Kurtz said the adopted budget demonstrates a “long-term plan” to get spending under control. However, he said the city’s debt service obligations and inability to finance capital projects were concerning.
Kurtz said the possibility of the city receiving less state aid next year from casino payments in lieu of taxes due to a crediting mechanism built into the law was problematic. A portion of the money collected from the PILOT is statutorily mandated to pay down the city’s debt obligations, which are still more than $400 million.
“There is a problem when there’s a considerable commitment to debt service coupled with a potential reduction of state aid towards debt service next year,” Kurtz said.
The city’s debt service for 2019 increased by $1.024 million over last year’s obligation of $34.3 million.
For this year, the city has budgeted anticipated additional revenue from the casino PILOT ($549,435), the investment alternative tax ($7.11 million) and energy receipts tax ($3.34 million).
In total, Atlantic City will receive nearly $62 million in state aid this year.
Full-time, non-uniformed city workers will receive wage and salary increases, including 2% salary increases in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Additionally, a one-time $1,000 stipend would go to full-timers employed by the city as of Jan. 1, 2015. Those with a base salary under $25,500 would be retroactively brought up to that amount as of Jan. 1, 2018, or receive a 2% raise, whichever is greater.
Those with a salary more than $25,500 would get a 2% retroactive salary increase for 2018, and those who did not receive a one-time $500 stipend in 2018 would receive it this year.