Atlantic City budget before Finance Board

TRENTON –The Local Finance Board approved items involving Atlantic City’s budget, held off on a port authority sale and handled other matters Wednesday.

Atlantic City

The board approved an application of $12.8 million for Atlantic City, which involves borrowing related to the damage from Superstorm Sandy and waiving the normal down payment.

Discussion of adoption of the city budget involved painting a stark picture of the city, which is under state supervision.

The board was told by the state monitor that the city faces a significant tax rate increase, 23 percent, due to the decrease in valuation of properties, the casinos.

About 70 percent of the city’s ratables are the 12 casino properties.  All filed for tax appeals, and 11 have been settled or adjudicated, leading to a refunding total of $180 million, and if the last one, involving Borgata, is also settled in the casino’s favor, it could have devastating consequences, the board was told.

The total valuation of the city already has dropped $5 billion due to the appeals.

The monitor outlined steps the city has taken since the end of 2010: cutting the full-time work force from 1,600 to 1,250, revising contracts, decreasing raises, and “shopping’’ for a better health insurance situation, among other things.

A property revaluation is a possibility because it could lead to reduced assessments for the non-casino properties. In part, that had to wait for new flood maps to be in place, the board was told.

Some relief is in the form of $12 million in two federal streams, one a block grant and one a disaster loan. However, Neff warned city officials that the federal funds can’t be relied on next year.

The budget approval was granted.

Bridgeton port authority

One item that did not pass muster today involved an application of the Bridgeton Municipal Port Authority for a property sale of $310,000.

Neff said they have no information regarding assets and liabilities of the authority and essentially no activity or documentation post-2005. The panel was told the city has been seeking someone to develop the property, which is not an active port at this moment.

It is a port authority without a port, but which has not been dissolved, and for which there apparently is no up-to-date audit, Neff said. Its bank account apparently holds about $1,400.

Board member Ted Light suggested that since this is not an emergency, they hold off action and hold discussions about the best way to proceed.

Keith Bonchi, the lawyer for the debt-holders, told the board that if the city dissolves the authority, the city must pay the debt and that it wants to avoid that.

Other matters

The board OK’d several routine, or ‘consent’ items involving no discussion or testimony:

*Caldwell, $825,000 for the Environmental Infrastructure Trust Loan program;

*Millville and Lake Como reverted to a calendar year basis from a fiscal year basis; Neff said this leaves only 10 municipalities still operating on a fiscal year basis.

*Fire district projects: Pittsgrove in Salem County, $282,000; Florence Township in Burlington County, $75,000; Buena Borough in Atlantic County, $240,000; and Jackson in Ocean County, $700,000.

*$22 million for the Camden County Improvement Authority, lease revenue re-funding bonds; and $6.4 million for the Salem County Improvement Authority.

*Kearny, bond ordinance adoption for $3.49 million.

In other matters, the board OK’d the following:

*Jersey City, $53.5 million bond re-funding;

*$20.3 million for the Camden County Improvement Authority, for the Crossroads Redevelopment Area;

*Passaic County Improvement Authority, $10 million;

*$139 million for the Hudson County Improvement Authority;

*A public/private contract for Allendale in Bergen County to have United Water Operations run the town water utility. The small town is not selling the utility. United Water was the lowest of three bidders. Atlantic City budget before Finance Board