Unless Atlantic City turns over funds to district, Christie administration will shut city schools

Atlantic City High School could soon be closed.(Google Maps)

Atlantic City High School could soon be closed.(Google Maps)

Atlantic City schools might close if the city doesn’t hand over some tax revenue to the district.

New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe said Tuesday he is charged with ensuring that the school district receives the local tax levy revenue the city collects on its behalf.

“That money is the school district’s money, and, without that, I will have to close the schools of Atlantic City,” he said. “Not sure what that moment in time is, but I can tell you I have already started that process by not paying certain vendors of the school district.”

If the schools close, Hespe said, moving students to other districts is doubtful.

“There is not much capacity in that area for moving large numbers of children, and that would be very disruptive to their education, and exactly the reason that we went to court because there aren’t any solutions,” he said.

The state is trying to freeze city assets until it makes the next payment to the school district.

Hespe was not the only official fed up with the struggling resort town’s attempt to fight off a state takeover and bankruptcy.

Budget Committee chairman Paul Sarlo said New Jersey’s Senate has done all it can to provide financial relief to Atlantic City with a takeover plan.

If Atlantic City officials continue to reject the plan, Sarlo said, they should deal with the city’s financial crisis on their own.

He’s also frustrated city officials oppose a plan for casino expansion to North Jersey that includes setting aside some gambling revenue for Atlantic City redevelopment.

“They’re opposed to a $200 million revenue stream that would create a new ratable base for that community,” said Sarlo, D-Bergen. “You know what? We have school districts all over the state who would love to have that $200 million. Perhaps we should rethink that and direct that $200 million to the school districts.”

Sarlo said Atlantic City’s financial stability is important, but all the attention on that crisis is overshadowing other important state issues.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has proposed an alternate plan for state intervention in Atlantic City, with more time before collective bargaining agreements could be terminated.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.