County Executive Dennis Levinson
May 22, 2018
presented: May 22, 2018
I am pleased to report that as we approach the midpoint of 2018, things are very positive.
Atlantic County government is on solid financial ground with its Moody’s Aa2 and Standard and Poor’s AA bond ratings. This places us among the top ratings tiers. This achievement is attributed to our consistent conservative financial practices and our efforts to broaden and diversify the local economy. Both agencies upgraded our economic outlook.
Because of our strong bond rating and low debt ratio, we were able to help finance two critical economic development projects. We authorized the issuance of $145 million in bonds to advance the Stockton University Gateway project. The county also helped finance the first building of the National Aviation Research and Technology Park, another critical economic development effort. Both of these projects will be completed this September.
The Atlantic County Economic Alliance, a private nonprofit created to implement our Economic Strategy, just completed its second year of operation. It is now the lead agency for business attraction, retention and expansion in Atlantic County. With its assistance, we have established a designated Aviation District. The district incorporates the Atlantic City International Airport, the FAA Tech Center, and the National Aviation Research and Technology Park, as well as a one mile area from their outermost boundaries.
The Aviation District is also within a federally designated Opportunity Zone which encourages new investment. There is also an aggressive effort underway to create a Garden State Growth Zone in the Aviation District. You may recall that Governor Christie vetoed this critical legislation that had broad bipartisan support. However, we are confident that Governor Murphy will recognize the importance of this and get behind new legislation. Having a competitive incentive program will significantly improve Atlantic County’s ability to attract new aviation-related businesses. These businesses include air cargo handling as well as aircraft maintenance and repair operations.
The development of offshore wind energy will offer our area new economic opportunities. The state designated Ørsted, headquartered in Denmark, as the developer of an offshore wind farm. The county, through the ACEA, is providing Ørsted assistance in finding a suitable location in Atlantic County that can accommodate its assembly and maintenance operational needs. Ørsted recently opened its administrative offices in Atlantic County. This initiative is expected to create approximately 1,000 jobs a year during its construction phase, and another 100 permanent jobs.
More significantly, both Hard Rock and the Ocean Resort Casino will open this summer creating 5,000 jobs. The approval of sports betting is expecting to further strengthen Atlantic City’s casino industry and add even more new jobs.
As you can see, despite a decade of significant economic challenges, Atlantic County government remains in good shape and the years ahead will offer more opportunity. This optimism is reflected in the budget that I present today.
There will be no tax increase in 2018. Our 2018 budget is $217,548,858.27. The amount to be raised by taxation is $154,968,908.32, a decrease of 1.65% compared to 2017. From 2010 to 2018, the amount raised by taxation, the portion of the budget the county controls, has averaged 1.32% per year.
The 2018 budget includes refunds of $8,387,347.67, of which most goes to Atlantic City. To date, we have refunded over $65 million to Atlantic City largely due to its over assessment of casino properties which mostly occurred with state oversight.
We also continue to support many of our municipalities through shared service programs such as purchasing cooperatives, police and fire training, record retention, emergency communications, grass cutting, snow plowing, equipment lending, Emergency Command Center Vehicle usage, hazardous material response and animal control. Most recently, we were able to help Atlantic City. The county is saving the city approximately $1 million or 3.85 cents per $100 off its municipal tax rate by providing congregate and home delivered meals, senior and disabled transportation, snow removal, health education and community public health services.
In conclusion, we are in good financial shape thanks to the continued efforts of a great financial team and the active cooperation of this Freeholder Board. That does not mean that we can now sit back and relax. On the contrary. It means that we must continue to remain frugal and keep our debt low. We must work hard to ensure that we build upon the opportunities that lay before us. That we broaden and strengthen the foundation of our economy and that we work together to ensure our future prosperity.