The impact of the New Jersey takeover of Atlantic City’s finances is becoming clear after six months.
The AC-NJ backstory
Gov. Chris Christie announced a state takeover of Atlantic City’s finances back in November. That ended what Christie viewed as a string of errors and poor planning by Mayor Don Guardian. (Guardian, despite all this, is running for mayor again.)
At the time of the takeover, there were many questions regarding what the state would do to balance Atlantic City’s budget and bring some life to its faltering economy.
Serious cuts to public safety
The two labor groups that have felt the deepest cuts from the state’s takeover are arguably police and fire.
New Jersey’s decisions about the public safety organizations’ finances have been more slash-and-burn than nip-and-tuck.
According to one regional news source, state officials plan to cut salaries, eliminate any payouts due for unused sick time and select a new health plan for police officers and firefighters. And here’s the kicker: 24 officers and 100 firefighters are going to be laid off.
These cuts, which were made public in December, drew the ire of the city’s unions. They were, according to the Press of Atlantic City, more than what local union leaders expected.
Police union president Matt Rogers told the Press of AC he and his fellow union leaders would continue to negotiate even though they felt they’d end up giving more than they’d take.
“It just seems like every time we go in there, they ask for a little bit more,” Rogers said.
Despite the plan to axe more than two dozen officers, 30 officers whose salaries paid by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority were safe from layoffs.
The unions sued the state. But a judge ruled against them (for the most part) by allowing all cuts except the layoffs to move forward.
City reached settlement with Borgata
The other main development in the state’s takeover was a $72 million settlement between Atlantic City and Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
This was good news for the city, as it owed the casino $165 million in property tax refunds.
Former US Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa, who leads the takeover for the state, took a conciliatory tone after the deal.
“As good corporate citizens, MGM Resorts and Borgata understand the financial realities facing Atlantic City and are jointly committed to the revitalization of the area as a good place to live and a prime destination for tourism,” he said.
Other developments in AC
Some may question whether any of that had to do with the state takeover. But regardless, the turnaround is happening.