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AC City Council, Atlantic City, Atlantic City Taxes, Political

City Government Missed Chance To Ease Property Re-Val

   Michael Clark reports today a portion of the proceedings from last night’s City Council meeting:

It was a crash that everyone saw coming, but no one applied the brakes.

That is how City Council President William Marsh on Wednesday described the city’s collective response to a property revaluation that should have been done in the Reagan era.

The administration and City Council, “we all need to accept a part” of the blame for residents’ panic and anger over the spike in new tax bills they recently received, Marsh said.

Mr. Clark chooses well his words when saying, “It was a crash that everyone saw coming, but no one applied the brakes.”   He is right on.   There was a chance to take a respite from the government spending festival.  City government saw the chance to stop budget increases and drove right past the chance on the “moving the city forward” street.

   I remember attending all of the re-valuation town meetings.  They were held in three different locations, for the First and Second, Third and Fourth, and Fifth and Sixth Wards.   The common refrain from both meetings held at each site was, “we are scared.  Lower our taxes and cut the budget.”

   Mayor Scott Evans responded to citizens by stating he would do everything he could to lower spending and propose a sound budget.   Once the Mayor was back in his office and not in front of an angry town meeting crowd, he proposed a budget just shy of $205 million.   Mayor Evans’ proposed budgetary solution to the imminent property re-valuation was to increase the budget 6%.

   City Council was aware of the fear that people will have to leave their houses due to higher taxes resulting from their new property valuations.   Different Councilmen expressed their self-proclaimed vigilance on behalf of property taxpayers.   City Council was not going to continue with the usual process of near-perpetual budget increases.  City Council was really going to act this time to cushion the blow of the property re-valuation.   At least that is what they said.

   There was one glimmer of hope.  Councilmen Dennis Mason and George Tibbitt told public safety departments that they would not receive the full increases in funding they desired.   Both Councilmen stressed their solidarity with public safety, but also stressed that the taxpayers simply could not afford the increases that those departments desired.   The handful of fiscal conservatives left in Atlantic City argue that those Councilmen did not cut enough, but we are thankful for the little bone we were thrown.

   City Council lessened Mayor Evans’ desired 6% increase and settled for 4%.  After all of the talk about city government standing side-by-side the property owners, they quietly passed an increased budget.  City Council and the Mayor did not give property owners a break.  Not even in the year of the re-valuation.

   The surprising part is not that city government added insult to injury by raising the budget the same year as a long overdue re-valuation was conducted.   Fiscal irresponsibility has a long-standing heritage in Atlantic City.  The surprising part is how well taxpayers have taken the one, two punch (budget increase and re-valuation).  Today’s Press of Atlantic City is one of the few mentions of public unrest over their increased tax bills.

   City government missed their chance to lower the budget, or at least hold it steady, during the year of the re-valuation.  It is bad that city government does not cut spending.  It is worse that taxpayers have been conditioned and are not outraged by the behemoth city budget.


About Jesse O. Kurtz

I am committed to fulfilling the promise of Atlantic City. The town would benefit from greater political participation by average citizens. Hopefully, some of the posts herein will encourage you to get more involved in your community. This blog will also feature other topics and subjects beyond Atlantic City. I hope that you will come to love Atlantic City as much, or more than I do.


2 thoughts on “City Government Missed Chance To Ease Property Re-Val

  1. Can someone correct me if I’m wrong?

    A reval is not supposed to raise any more money than the city’s budget calls for. All a reval does is to redistribute who pays that money. Therefore, if the budget remains unchanged (like that ever happens), one-third of the town should see an increase; one-third of the town should have their taxes remain the same; and one-third should see an actual decrease.

    Everything I’ve been reading seems to say that EVERYONE is getting an increase! If that’s true, where is all that money going?

    Am I missing something? Are we all missing something? Are they HIDING something?

    Posted by dave202 | September 19, 2008, 6:28 pm
  2. Dave:

    Your point is well taken. The problem is two-fold.

    First, city government consistently raises the budget.

    Second, the reval(uation) adjusts the values of all city properties to more accurately reflect their current values. When revaluations are done regularly, the values reflect the market. Some areas go up, down, and some stay the same.

    Because city government failed to act according to the law, the current assessment was decades overdue. The result is new property values that shock property owners. Rather than gradually increasing values, owners get slammed with decades of property value increases at once.

    City Council and the Mayor needed to take these factors in to account and act accordingly. They did not. They did not cut waste, fraud, and abuse. They did not lower the budget, or at least hold it steady. That is the problem.

    Posted by Jesse O. Kurtz | September 20, 2008, 11:53 am

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