Officials from New Jersey’s troubled gaming capitol of Atlantic City will update lawmakers on their progress toward balancing their city budget tomorrow. The resort town faced a complete state takeover of its finances earlier this year, with Mayor Don Guardian caught in a war of words with both Governor Chris Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney.
Guardian and members of the city council will have to convince Christie that their planned cuts will be enough to minimize the state’s losses from the decline of its casino and prevent a municipal bankruptcy. If the proposed cuts don’t go deep enough, the state could assume full control and take extreme steps like privatizing the city’s water authority.
Guardian is facing a deadline of November 1 to get the Christie administration’s blessing. The Department of Community Affairs will make the final judgement. Guardian already got one reprieve earlier this month when Christie authorized giving the city more time to pay back a $62 million bridge loan.
City council voted 5-3-1 Monday night approve the plan, which would cut 100 jobs and include a tax settlement with its healthiest casino, the Borgata. Early retirement plans for city workers and the sale of Bader Field, the city’s former airport, will also be part of the plan.
The plan would have the city sell Bader Field to its independent Municipal Utilities Authority, which would borrow $110 million for the sale. That money would go toward paying off the city’s $500 million of debt. The Borgata would get $103 million of the $150 million in tax refunds that it is owed.
Five casinos have closed in Atlantic City due to out-of-state competition since the mid-2000s, leveling its ratable base and leaving the city with a $100 million deficit.
Tomorrow could also mark the first opportunity for Guardian and City Council President Marty Small to cooperate as the faces of the city since the uproar leading up to the May compromise that gave them 150 days. Small plans to run against Guardian, a Republican, when he goes up for reelection next year. He will face a primary challenge from his bitter council rival Frank Gilliam, who has criticized the recovery plan.
Tomorrow’s hearing will be at 10:00AM in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.