Atlantic County Executive, Dennis Levinson, is not a big fan of a PILOT BILL for Casinos. ( Payment in Lieu of Taxes ) It’s also possible that Mr. Levinson throws up in his mouth a little…when discussing Atlantic City’s nonsensical assessment of casinos. And don’t get Denny started about the insane under-valuation of Borgata. MGM really snookered Atlantic City on that one. MGM gets a half-price valuation for 10 years.
Here’s a recent LETTER TO THE EDITOR from Atlantic County Executive, Dennis Levinson.
After years of discussions, the Atlantic City rescue package that allows casinos to make payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, for the next 10 years was finally signed into law in May 2016. But the controversy did not end with the governor’s signature. We now have a discrepancy regarding how much of the $120 million Atlantic City receives yearly from the PILOT will go to Atlantic County.
We believe Atlantic County should receive 13.5 percent based upon the overall percentage of taxes paid by Atlantic City to Atlantic County during an agreed period. The average tax payment actually exceeds 13.5 percent when we factor in refunds the county returned to Atlantic City for its property overassessments.
This analysis was provided to Atlantic City, the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Atlantic County Mayors Association and our state legislators while terms of the PILOT were being negotiated. With full bipartisan support, all parties agreed to 13.5 percent. But now, some officials appear to have a sudden case of amnesia. That’s neither fair nor honest.
The only reason the Atlantic County Mayors Association ever agreed to the PILOT was because it believed Atlantic County would get its fair share at 13.5 percent. Without that, the legislation may never have passed. Even the governor acknowledged the 13.5 percent as recently as last April and has remained steadfast. But the governor’s term is over in a year. Then what?
No one took issue with the 13.5 percent before the PILOT passed, but now we learn that certain elected officials are attempting to provide only 10.3 percent – a difference of $4 million a year for 10 years and $40 million over the life of the PILOT. Rather significant wouldn’t you say?
The amount Atlantic County taxpayers had to refund Atlantic City in 2016 was more than 40 times that of the state’s other 20 counties! Additionally, the percentage of our refunds to the amount raised by taxation is seven times the average of the other counties.
Between 2010 and 2016 Atlantic County has refunded close to $45 million to Atlantic City, representing 83.5 percent of the total property tax refunds for the entire county, not to mention an additional $13 million having to be returned this year for a total of $58 million in refunds to date. These refunds are paid by taxpayers in every one of our municipalities.
The reason we continue to have to pay Atlantic City a refund is due to the city’s longstanding habit of overassessing its casinos to meet its budgetary obligations. Atlantic City has failed to develop an appropriate method to assess casino properties. To add insult to injury, Atlantic County has no say in how Atlantic City, or any town for that matter, assesses its properties.
Those officials who argue for 10.3 percent instead of 13.5 percent seem to forget that any tax increase that occurs at the county level impacts every non-casino property owner. Meanwhile, the casinos will see no increase for 10 years.
The 13.5 percent was not chosen arbitrarily, but based upon Atlantic City’s tax payment history. It was acceptable to all interested parties during the two years the PILOT was discussed. I am at a loss to understand what has changed to make those who gave their approval so suddenly forgetful.
We are only as good as our word. I’d like to believe that still means something. I know it does to me and to the citizens I was elected to serve and protect.