Atlantic County’s general purpose tax rate would increase less than 2 cents per $100 of valuation under a 2021 budget affected by last year’s three-month casino shutdown and losses at Meadowview Nursing Home, both due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new county tax rate would be $0.493 per $100 valuation. That means the owner of a property assessed at $200,000 would pay a county tax bill of about $986.
“Last year, I noted how we had turned the corner,” county Executive Dennis Levinson said during Tuesday’s commissioners meeting, where he gave a budget address and the budget was introduced. “The Atlantic County regional economy had experienced the best year since 1984. But we had no idea what was yet to come — an unprecedented global pandemic.”
But he said the county’s fiscal prudence has served it well.
“Our past practices of pay-as-you-go have put us in a more favorable position than most,” Levinson said.
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Atlantic County’s property taxes remain much lower than those of most New Jersey counties, he said. “Ranked highest to lowest, Atlantic County is 18th out of 21 counties in the state.”
The budget is about $233 million, with $159.3 million to be raised by taxation, Levinson said.
That is up significantly from last year’s total budget of $216.7 million and an amount to be raised from taxes of $151.6 million. But much of the spending will be grant-funded, he said.
“Though this is an increase (in overall spending), $9.5 million is attributed to grant funds, with $7.8 million of that for emergency rental assistance,” Levinson said.
He said the largest increases in county spending are $1.55 million in additional pension contributions, $1.1 million in additional psychiatric payments for care for county residents, and $2.2 million in COVID-19 response expenses.
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“The increase in pension and psychiatric payments and the need to budget for additional COVID-19 costs account for roughly 80% of the overall budget increase and approximately $0.015 of the tax increase, or less than a penny and a half,” Levinson said. “As you can see, the tax increase for the costs controlled by the county is negligible — only three-tenths of a penny.”
It is possible that state or federal funds will reimburse the county for some or all of the COVID expenses, in which case the budget and tax rate will come down, Levinson said.
Projected revenues are $50.8 million, down $2.1 million due to losses at Meadowview from the suspension of admissions, he said. They are also down $3 million from the Casino Revenue Fund, due to the casinos being closed for more than three months from March into July last year at the beginning of the pandemic.
There will be a public hearing on the budget at the commissioners’ March 16 meeting.
Contact Michelle Brunetti Post: 609-272-7219
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