With a shrinking bank account and no sign of a bailout, Atlantic City will likely shut down its municipal government for three weeks starting next month.
“Unfortunately, due to financial circumstances beyond our control, we will be forced to close City Hall,” said Mayor Don Guardian in a written statement.
The closure is expected to last from April 8 to May 2, when the distressed city anticipates its next round of tax payments.
Nonessential employees will be furloughed without pay. Police officers, firefighters, revenue department workers, and some public works employees will stay on the job and be paid once City Hall reopens. All Atlantic City employees will continue receiving their health benefits.
Guardian had asked the state government for a loan to tide the city over until May, but Gov. Chris Christie refused.
“I am not going to permit the people of this state to be held responsible and have their pocketbooks picked again by Atlantic City,” said Christie at a news conference in Long Branch. “I am not opening the Treasury of the State of New Jersey to people who cannot manage their affairs responsibly.”
Christie said the only solution to Atlantic City’s financial woes at this point are two bills in the state Legislature. One would allow the state to take the city over, and another would let casinos make lump sum payments in lieu of taxes, also known as the PILOT bill.
While both bills have support in the state Senate, there is so far no agreement in the Assembly, where Speaker Vincent Prieto has taken issue with the provision of the takeover bill that would allow the state to cancel collective bargaining agreements.
“There’s things that I have a problem [with] in that bill,” he said. “That they would be exempt from unfair labor practices. A statement like that is unconscionable to me.”
Guardian and other city officials plan a news conference Thursday to discuss more details of the impending shutdown.