“Can you address that, Scott?” queried Dr. Howard Barsky. “I’ll try, Doc,” responded a strained Mayor Scott Evans.
The third and final town hall meeting concerning the property re-valuations found Mayor Evans on the hot seat. Round one was at Uptown School Complex, Round two was held at Dr. M.L.K., Jr. School, and this last round was held at Atlantic City High School. I invite you to peruse my postings of the previous rounds. Feel free to ask me further questions about what transpired at this or any of the town hall meetings.
A.C.H.S. was the place for residents of the 5th and 6th wards to receive information, ask questions, and voice their concerns.
The Mayor revealed that he moved back to A.C. in ’95. He is invested in the future of A.C. “I am not a career politician; I am a fireman,” said Evans. He continued, “with Badar Field coming down the road, it is our last chance to get things right.” We admire the Mayor for conducting these meetings. It is an act of bravery for him to come and bear the brunt of residents’ anger. That anger should be directed at Mayors Whelan, Langford, and everyone else who has continued to proclaim empty promises of a better A.C. future.
Several disturbing facts were brought to light:
Did you know that the Ocean Club was singled-out for a “spot re-valuation” in 2001? They were informed that they would be re-assessed first, and then each of the city’s condominiums would follow suit. Well, six years have come and gone, yet the Ocean Club was the only condominium to be re-valued. They were unjustly singled-out for the punishment of a higher assessed value and tax bill for six years. Those condo owners wanted their just dessert.
Ms. Novelette Hopkins informed the O.C. condo owners that it is illegal to receive any special consideration in this current re-valuation. While we agree with the legality expressed by the Tax Assessor, Ms. Hopkins, we also suggest strongly for Ocean Club to file suit against the City for being unjustly targeted with a re-valuation. Laws are to be just and equitable for all, not selectively enforced. Was someone in the tax office trying to get even with some political enemies that reside at the Ocean Club?
Mayor Evans’ meeting with Governor Jon Corzine was discussed. In response to the Mayor’s eagerness to be partners with State government, Joe Pollillo remarked, “They [the State] want to take over our town? They should first pay their taxes [in reference to the fact that CRDA, a state agency, owns much A.C. property, yet pays no taxes].” I said, “The state taking over A.C. is the ‘Blind leading the blind.’ ”
For those of you who do not know, Atlantic City was the sole reason for the creation of the luxury tax. We thank the kind woman who reminded us of that fact during the Q & A period.
The Mayor is establishing an office on the first floor devoted to assisting seasoned citizens appealing their assessment.
The Mayor appealed to the age-old Marxist principle of class envy. At one point, he said, “I would like to see us pass a vending ordinance, where we [City government] get $10 from each slot machine.” Granted, he was tired by this point. His remarks betray an anti-business, anti-casino mentality. Instead of fixing problems in his own backyard–namely, cutting the enormously wasteful city budget–the Mayor would like to slap yet another tax on the Casinos. While saying that we have yet to realize the promises of low-to-no taxes in A.C., he went on to lead the people in a chorus of bashing the Casinos for the sad state of affairs.
What about the Senior transportation that Casino tax revenue pays for? What about the free youth day camps that Casino tax revenue pays for? What about myriad services that are possible solely due to the fact that Casinos pay for 80% of the wasteful City services? The Mayor and everyone else would do well to target their frustration where it belongs: the budget. Cut the budget!
Our tax rate is approximately $3.726 for every $100. This rate is demanded from taxpayers to feed three hungry budgets: Atlantic County, Atlantic City Schools, and Atlantic City Government. The Mayor and Council have sole responsibility for the City Government’s rate, which is approximately $1.82 for every $100.00, according to Ms. Hopkins. The goal should be to drop this rate to $1.75 for every $100.00 in 2008.
Echoing the same concern that I proclaimed at each town hall meeting and on several local talk shows, I implored the Mayor to cut the budget. That is the one concrete way to reduce the tax bill by August on the newly assessed properties by. We have yet to receive a clear and definitive pledge from the Mayor or members of Council that they will cut the budget. There are meetings underway currently in the administration’s Department of Revenue and Finance to work out a 2008 budget. The anger and frustrations of A.C. residents should focus first on contesting assessments that are over-inflated across the board, and second, on letting every member of Council and the Mayor know that raising the budget this year is unacceptable. The budget must be cut. The shopping spree must end!