Local 54 supports state rejection of Atlantic City plan

{child_byline}CHRISTIAN HETRICK, Staff Writer{/child_byline}

ATLANTIC CITY — The city’s main casino workers union sided with the state Thursday in the ongoing battle over a state takeover.

UNITE HERE Local 54 President Bob McDevitt wrote a letter announcing the union supports the state’s decision to reject the city’s fiscal recovery plan.

“Although the leadership of the city should be commended for proposing a recovery plan that addressed many of the critical issues facing Atlantic City, I agree that the precarious financial position of the city cannot be satisfactorily improved without substantial state assistance,” McDevitt wrote.

McDevitt added that he is grateful for the “willingness of the governor and the state to be involved in the long term improvement of Atlantic City’s finances.”

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The city’s recovery plan included cutting 100 workers, selling Bader Field to the Municipal Utilities Authority, settling with Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa over tax refunds and bonding to pay for tax-appeal debt. The plan would drop the city’s budget to $207 million by 2021. The city had a $262 million budget in 2015.

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But DCA Commissioner Charles Richman rejected the plan, saying it failed to balance the city’s 2017 budget, ran a five-year shortfall of $106 million and didn’t accurately estimate cost and revenue projections. Richman further wrote that cornerstones of the plan, such as the Bader Field sale, lacked detail and could financially burden the city and the authority. The plan also didn’t raise taxes over the five years.

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Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, said Wednesday that the state’s rejection of the city’s plan was disappointing but “reflects the failure of city leadership on this issue.”

“The city needs to recognize the reality that some painful decisions need to be made, get back to the table with DCA and come up with a real plan,” said Whelan, a former Atlantic City mayor. “We all share the same goal of doing everything we can to avoid a state takeover.”

Whelan criticized the city for not selling or leasing the city’s prized Municipal Utilities Authority to Atlantic County.

“Throughout this process, I and others have urged City leaders to enter into an agreement with the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, which would have provided immediate cash flow to the City while keeping the water in public hands,” Whelan said. “Instead, the City comes up with a shell game with its local utilities authority to increase debt by $110 million to purchase Bader Field with no plans of what to do with it.”

In a statement, Senate President Steve Sweeney, who intorduced the takeover law, said “this is not the outcome anyone involved in this process would have desired.”

“We gave city officials ample time to find effective solutions to the serious fiscal problems plaguing the city,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland. “But we knew going in, that the hurdles in front of the city, were nearly insurmountable. It is now incumbent upon the administration to devise a way forward that protects the residents of Atlantic City from additional financial hardship while devising a roadmap forward.”

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Contact: 609-272-7215

Twitter @_Hetrick

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Contact: 609-272-7215

CHetrick@pressofac.com

Twitter @_Hetrick

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