ATLANTIC CITY — City Council finally received a detailed 2022 city budget that includes how each department plans to spend its money, after asking the state and city for it for more than a month, Council President George Tibbitt said Monday.
Tibbitt said he expects the $235 million budget will be voted on in a special meeting, after council members have had time to study the documents that arrived Wednesday and were distributed late last week.
“I do not see us being ready for it in 10 days,” Tibbitt said of the budget vote. The next scheduled council meeting is June 22.
“They’ve had the budget all year, we just got the (itemized) budget last Wednesday,” Tibbitt said of the city administration and state who work together on the budget. “They have quite a few experts working with them. We have very limited resources with us.”
“The State has never declined to share supporting documentation to the budget to City Council,” said Department of Community Affairs spokesperson Lisa Ryan in an email response to questions.
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She said City Council for several years asked for the budget in a streamlined, user-friendly format. They had found a more detailed format unwieldy and difficult to follow, Ryan said.
“However, after receiving the supporting documentation (this year), City Council stated it wanted more information about the budget line items,” Ryan said. “The City administration needed time to compile the information requested and the additional information has now been prepared and was sent to the City Clerk … for delivery to City Council members.”
The budget as introduced raises $38.6 million from local taxpayers, down 3.7% from the $40 million collected from property taxes last year, resulting in a 2.9% tax rate decrease.
It uses $15 million in surplus to increase spending on city employee salaries by 10% and on debt service by 7%, even as the state will provide $5.7 million less in aid.
Tibbitt said council members will meet with department heads and others in the administration Tuesday to ask questions about the budget details.
“We are going over each department (budget) to see what the thoughts and plans are in the upcoming year about money being requested,” Tibbitt said. “We are doing our best not to hold things up. I wish they had given it to us when we asked over a month ago.”
Several council members said at the budget hearing May 18 that they wanted more detail on how each department planned to spend its funding.
The budget available then to both council and members of the public gave information about each department’s designated amounts for salaries and “other expenses,” but did not specify what those expenses were.
DCA is unaware of any additional raise for the mayor or department heads above those already announced that will go to all employees, Ryan said.
“Regardless, any raises for the mayor and/or department heads must be approved via waiver by DCA before any raise could take effect,” Ryan said.
The basic budget is posted at on the city’s website.
“The supporting documentation to the budget is often considered work product under (Open Public Records Act) and is not able to be requested through OPRA until after the budget is adopted,” Ryan said when asked if The Press might receive a copy with the details.
The tax rate will decrease to $1.5997 per $100 of assessed property value, down 2.9% from last year.
For the owner of the average home assessed at $125,000, the local government tax bill will fall from $2,060 to about $2,000.
The $235 million budget ($219 million when state and federal grant spending is subtracted) was introduced April 20.
The total tax bill including school, library and county taxes will also fall from $3.901 to $3.792 per $100 valuation.
The average homeowner will pay $4,740 in total property taxes in 2022, down from $4,876.25 last year.
The city’s assessed valuation (without casinos and other properties under PILOT agreements) has fallen 0.8% in the past year, to $2.41 billion from $2.43 billion.
REPORTER: Michelle Brunetti Post