Atlantic City to vote on deep spending, job cuts as it seeks more state aid for it and casinos

Associated Press

Atlantic City's governing body is expected to vote Wednesday on a proposed financial recovery plan designed to show New Jersey it is serious about taming its out-of-control finances, and is deserving of massive state aid being considered for the city's casinos and its residents.

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The plan before the City Council includes tens of millions of dollars in budget cuts and layoffs — and fierce resistance to a new proposed state overseer.

The vote comes as state officials and Gov. Chris Christie weigh at least three proposals to help the city's finances and those of its struggling casino industry, which last year lost four of its 12 gambling halls. A key proposal would let casinos make reduced payments instead of property taxes for 15 years, and help the city reduce its debt.

"Clearly, property taxes are the major obstacle for progress in Atlantic City," Mayor Don Guardian said in introducing the plan last month.

"Atlantic City is not a burden on the state of New Jersey; Atlantic City remains the golden goose of the Garden State, but she is currently wounded," he said. "We need temporary help over the next few years."

The city's budget was more than $261 million last year. It continues to suffer as the deterioration of its casino industry leads to casinos filing — and winning — costly tax appeals that devastate the budget.

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A series of proposals by Democratic and Republican lawmakers aim to help the city, though the parties are split on tax breaks for casinos, with Democrats advocating them and a Republican proposal rejecting them.

In convening two summits on Atlantic City's future last year, Christie explored ways to help the struggling seaside resort but said it must make its own difficult decisions to reduce spending if it wants more state aid. Wednesday night's vote is seen by Guardian's administration as a way of showing the state that Atlantic City is serious about getting its finances under control and that it can be trusted with additional state aid.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC