Atlantic City offers blueprint for digging itself out of financial hole

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and Council President Marty Small brief the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee Wednesday on the city’s plan to fix its financial problems and avoid a state takeover. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and Council President Marty Small brief the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee Wednesday on the city’s plan to fix its financial problems and avoid a state takeover. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Atlantic City officials are hoping New Jersey accepts its five-year plan to remedy its financial problems and avoid a state takeover.

City officials briefed an Assembly committee Wednesday about a plan that Council President Marty Small called the only logical solution to the city’s financial woes.

“There is no tax increase, a decrease to the budget,” he said. “We are becoming more nonreliant on state aid through this process, and we trimmed the workforce — all while hoping this plan gets approved and leads to us keeping home rule and a right to self-govern ourselves.”

The plan also calls for selling the former municipal airport to the independent Municipal Utility Authority to help reduce the city’s debt.

The state Department of Community Affairs has until Tuesday to decide whether to accept the proposal.

Mayor Don Guardian said he is optimistic it will be approved.

“If there’s no other plan, the state would have to produce $100 million just to make up for our shortfall,” he said. “It’s not necessary. Why would you burden the rest of the state when we’re telling you that we want to be fiscally responsible and that we understand there’s going to be continued state supervision?”

Judiciary Committee chairman John McKeon, D-Essex, urged the state to accept the city’s proposal.

“Why would we look to take over and take on a half a billion dollars of debt — especially when this isn’t guaranteed, locked in — for five years?” he said. “If — six months from now, three months from now, a year from now, two years from now — they get off of the plan that they’ve put out, at that point we step in. So why not give them the chance?”

If the plan is rejected, Guardian said the city will appeal and challenge the constitutionality of a state takeover.

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