Sen. Whelan: Atlantic City and the State Cooperated on Balancing the Budget

Atlantic City is on the rebound. Two years ago it was hobbled by the casino collapse that threw thousands out of work, crashed the tax base and forced the city to consolidate municipal services and close schools. Now Mayor Don Guardian has announced a balanced budget, that doesn’t hike property taxes. The budget was balanced with transitional aid and grants from the state. Atlantic City’s former Mayor and current State Senator Jim Whelan told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that Mayor Guardian and the City Council have worked hard on balancing the budget.

“Well, the mayor has been working very hard, as our city council and a lot of cooperation frankly between the state and the city on this [budget],” said Whelan. “The city has cut $40 million in its budget, and I think that showed the good faith and then the state stepped up and said ‘okay, you guys are doing what you have to do in terms of making some tough decisions.’ So, there was good cooperation and communication between state and city and it is good news for tax payers.”

While Atlantic City residents are getting a tax break this year, Whelan said that the long-term effects of the balanced budget is that it’s still not where the city needs to be. He said that additional cuts may happen in the future and hopes that Atlantic City will get additional businesses. He says non-casino businesses have been expressing interest in going to Atlantic City.

“So the long term picture I think is going to be okay. In the short term we may have another year,” said Whelan.

Atlantic City’s budget includes $33.5 million for Casino Redirected Anticipated Payment. When asked if officials are counting chickens before they’ve hatched in terms of the budget, Whelan said, “You know, I heard about that. I have to assume that may be related to some of the legislation that’s on the governor’s desk that took alliance money, $30 million a year that was to promote the city and redirect that from marketing to taxes, because of the number, you had to unstabilize taxes.”

Meanwhile, the PILOT legislation is still sitting on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk awaiting his approval. Whelan said he thought the governor was going to sign the legislation, as there was no indications that there were reservations on the bill.