November 9, 2016

State Takeover Means Higher Taxes & Who Knows What Else?

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New Jersey's Community Affairs Building in Trenton, where state officials decided to take over Atlantic City's government.

We were in Trenton today to follow what went down at the meeting of state officials tasked with deciding whether or not to take over Atlantic City. Two things were decided in quick succession – so quick, in fact, that most people in the room missed them – and that may or may not have been deliberate, you decide:
1. The state approved Atlantic City’s 2016 budget with one change
2. The change was to raise property taxes in the city (which as we know is already gasping after the tax rate has doubled in five years)

The state’s local finance board then voted unanimously to execute the state’s power to take the reins in Atlantic City, but took the option of bankruptcy off the table, meaning that the state has to turn the city around without filing for court protection from its creditors.

When pressed by the press, the bureaucrat now in charge of Atlantic City, Tim Cunningham, said that he wasn’t sure exactly what new powers he has or what he will do. Under the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act, the state has powers to┬átake charge of hiring and firing and union bargaining and – probably – decide the future of the water authority. Cunningham said he had no plans for the authority yet.

After a closed-doors meeting, Council President Marty Small and Mayor Don Guardian told the press that Cunningham told them it should be “business as usual” for the council and they should continue to go about regular duties… So it remains to be seen what exactly the state will do with its new powers in Atlantic City.

Meanwhile, I asked the agency for a copy of the resolutions approving the takeover and the budget, and details on the tax increase, and I was told they won’t be available until tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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