NORTHFIELD — The Atlantic County freeholders introduced a $212.7 million general purpose budget Tuesday, down from $217.5 million last year.
The general purpose tax rate will drop from 50 cents per $100 valuation last year to 48 cents per $100 valuation this year, said County Administrator Jerry DelRosso.
A homeowner with a house assessed at $200,000 in a town where values are at 100 percent would pay a county tax bill of $960, down from about $1,000 last year.
Overall spending is down largely because there are fewer property-tax appeal refunds to be paid this year. The county only has to return about $1 million after successful appeals, compared with $8.3 million last year and $9.2 million the year before, said DelRosso.
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The county found out in January the state had settled an appeal with the owners of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. It was for 2017, when the property was the closed former Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort and not part of the collective casino payments in lieu of taxes.
The settlement will require the state and county to pay back $4.8 million. The county’s share is about 8 percent, according to the state.
But the state said it is allowing the city and county to refund the money over four years, starting in the 2020 budget, so it will not affect this year’s tax rate.
DelRosso said the state has agreed to send the county stipulations and court judgments related to Atlantic City property-tax appeals by October of each year in the future, so the county will never again be surprised by tax appeal settlements so close to budget time.
“There are appeals for the Showboat and Claridge — (former casino properties) that exist as hotels — that are still out there,” said Del Rosso.
Amounts raised from taxes will increase from $146.6 million to $149.4 million. But the tax rate will decrease because the equalized value of the county has increased to $31.2 billion, spreading the tax burden over more value, said DelRosso.
In 2018, the county negotiated nine union contracts, with most settling at 2 percent annual increases, said County Executive Dennis Levinson in his recent budget address. Total salary and wage expenses are up $1.142 million, for a 1.51 percent increase.
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Significant spending increases are mainly related to expenses the county cannot control, Levinson said. Psychiatric care payments on behalf of county residents went up $621,000 this year, and the county’s insurance payments went up $507,000.
DelRosso said payments went up $171,000 to the Public Employees Retirement System, and $140,000 to welfare/Supplemental Security Income payments.
The public will have a chance to comment at the Feb. 26 freeholder meeting, when the budget is up for adoption, along with county public health and library budgets.
The dedicated library budget would increase from $8.37 million to $8.44 million, and the dedicated public health budget will increase from $9.7 million to $9.87 million, according to the county.