Atlantic City Faces Long Painful Recovery Mayor Says

Newly elected Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said the city faces a long painful battle as it tries to recover from falling casino tax revenue, but promised a way back is possible.

New Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said he will seek millions in transitional aid and put in place a number of building projects as the city tries to recover from a million shortfall in casino revenue and build a new future.

Guardian’s remarks came at an annual business association lunch which has served as an unofficial “state of the city”’ address for several years.

“I move from mayor at the end of this luncheon to dentist,” Guardian said. “You need a root canal. It’s going to be painful, but we can’t continue not to have a sustainable income.”

The city faces a huge loss in tax revenues as the resort’s casinos seek lower tax assessments. The Borgata Casino Hotel & Spa last year won a major reduction in its assessment in Tax Court, which also ordered the city to pay the casino $40 million for over-payment of taxes. The city is appealing the decision.

Guardian highlighted plans for a four-year college campus in the city, increased residency by building more housing, and cutting costs through shared services.

Guardian said he will also ask the state of New Jersey for $30 million in transitional aid slated to help cities in financial distress. The city must cut $10 million in spending over three years to qualify for the aid, but Guardian feels the city can meet that threshold.

The city has already implemented a hiring and promotions freeze for some departments.

Housing is a major component of the mayor’s plan. Guardian wants the city to give away long-vacant land in exchange for a commitments to build housing units within two years and use it as a primary residence for 10 years. The goal is to have 400 units in six years with the potential of $120 million in taxable ratables, Guardian said.

There are also plans for a four-year campus in the city attached to the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey—in nearby Galloway Township—that would have 1,500 students and housing for 400.  Guardian did not disclose where in the city the campus would be built.