By Cleve Bryan
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., (CBS) — With Air Show planes soaring overhead a group of local residents protesting a property tax hike held up signs Wednesday on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
“This is the fight for every single individual that works and lives in the city,” said organizer Emily Vu through a megaphone to a crowd of several dozen protesters near Boardwalk Hall.
The newly formed Atlantic City Tax Appealers group is fighting a 29 percent property tax increase in this year’s budget that comes after a 22 percent increase last year.
Vu, who is a local accountant, says it isn’t fair for property owners to see their tax bills increase by thousands of dollars two years in a row.
“Somewhere along the line someone has to step up, speak up and that’s what we are going to do,” says Vu.
The problem is the total value of properties in Atlantic City has been slashed in half over the last four years.
Atlantic City Director of Finances Michael Stinson says in 2010 the total value was about $20 billion and now is around $11.3 billion. The City has lost millions dollars because of thousands of appeals to property assessments.
With the Revel, Showboat and Trump Plaza casinos all planning to close by mid-September the revenue situation for the city will become even direr.
Mayor Don Guardian who met with the Tax Appealers group last Friday for almost three hours says his administration has made $12.5 million in spending cuts but it’s not enough to avoid the property tax hike.
“I certainly realize that they’re angry and upset at the 29 percent increase. I’m a taxpayer, I’m upset too and all I can do is continue to reduce the cost of government in Atlantic City,” said Guardian at the Air Show after returning from a NJ Local Finance Board meeting in Trenton on Wednesday morning.
The Finance Board gave final approval to Atlantic City’s budget which was passed by City Council last week.
Guardian says the state also approved just fewer than $20 million in state aid and voted to approve $140 million in bonding to pay tax settlements.
Bad news arrived Wednesday afternoon as the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement announced casino revenue in July 2014 dropped 6.6 percent compared to the same month last year.
The Atlantic City Alliance announced it will begin running full page advertisements in New York and Philadelphia newspapers on Thursday to show that crowds are coming to Atlantic City for non-gaming activities.
Also on Wednesday Governor Chris Christie’s office announced there will be a summit on September 8 with local and state officials to discuss the future of Atlantic City.
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