Facing a deadline to get its finances in order before the end of the year or face a state takeover, Atlantic City is doing the budgetary equivalent of checking the sofa cushions for spare change.
On Thursday, it will sell off surplus land. But it’s also looking at small measures such as raising the fines for parking meter violations and being under the Boardwalk without authorization.
New Jersey officials have given the cash-strapped city five months to tame its finances before the state can take them over.
“We’re on the clock,” said City Council President Marty Small. “It’s up to us to explore every possible measure to get that done. Nothing is too big or too small; that’s the mindset you have to have right now.”
Earlier this year the city nearly ran out of cash, the culmination of years of worsening finances brought on by the continuing contraction of its casino industry, which has seen its revenue fall from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.56 billion last year. Four of the city’s 12 casinos shut down in 2014.
But critics also say Atlantic City has spent itself into a hole with budgets that were supportable while casino tax dollars were rolling in, but are not feasible now. That has put the city on a scavenger hunt for cash.
Big-ticket items include the proposed sale of the former Bader Field airport and a 10.5-acre parcel on Route 30 that’s being promoted as a possible technology or research park. Bids on those two large parcels are due in mid-July, and no minimum bids have been set, officials said.
On Thursday, 121 parcels of city-owned land, mostly acquired due to unpaid taxes, will be auctioned off. The land is being offered for 10 percent of its assessed value; if all the parcels sell at that ratio, the city could realize $1 million from the auction.
“It’s a great time to be investing in Atlantic City right now,” said Mayor Don Guardian. “The price is right.”
The city will replace its stock of broken or worn-out parking meters with new ones, and add parking meters to nine streets where there are none now.