EDITOR'S NOTE: On Monday, Oct. 17, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian released the following statement on the savings expected through Atlantic City’s fiscal recovery plan:
If being involved with the Boy Scouts for over 30 years prior to my government service has taught me anything, it’s that you have to be creative and think outside the box to solve problems. That’s exactly what we have been doing over the past three years, and when the complete Atlantic City fiscal recovery plan is released, you will see how this outside the box kind of thinking will save the city tens of millions of dollars over the next five years. These cost savings and revenue producing initiatives are only part of our comprehensive fiscal recovery plan, but they are an important part. There is a lot of misinformation concerning what the city has not done over the past three years regarding cutting costs and bringing in new revenue. This outlines the proactive steps we have already taken or plan on taking in the near future.
We widely recognize that the perception of Atlantic City’s government is that it is heavily overstaffed. This is why we have been aggressively trying to reduce our headcount. We have downsized our staff by approximately 400 full-time employees.
Other tough decisions and outside the box thinking that the Administration has in partnership with City Council either implemented, or is currently pursuing, include:
In addition to the reduction of approximately 400 full-time employees since 2013, we will reduce staffing by another 100 or more employees through early retirement and/or bidding out services
We offered an early retirement incentive to accelerate general reductions in city headcount without the disruption of layoffs; as of now 165 employees have shown interest, with final totals expected soon;
We are renegotiating police and civilian labor agreements to healthcare costs, multiple years with no wage increases; restructure pay scales, and cut overtime and paid leave;
We obtained a firefighter labor arbitration award with significant cost containment, including longevity and education pay freezes/elimination, a new salary scale, and multiple years with no wage increases;
Consistent with other Atlantic County municipalities, we undertook shared services with Atlantic County by having the county take over Atlantic City’s “Meals on Wheels” program, provide more senior transportation, and other health services. We anticipate saving over $1.5 million per year with a reduction of 25 positions;
We are currently in negotiations with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority’s (CRDA) Special Improvement Division to share landscaping responsibilities within the city’s parks and playgrounds;
We established a mortgage foreclosure registration shared services program with the Atlantic County Improvement Authority; we have received over $190,000 so far this year;
We competitively bid out nine functions to date, including: parking meter operations; payroll services; prosecutor services; public defenders services; emergency dispatch; solid waste, recycling, and Kelly act services; and code enforcement; with specifications being finalized for police towing. While not all of these services will be contracted if not more cost effective, we are testing the market broadly to ensure the best price;
We contracted for use of high technology pothole repair equipment that has improved road conditions and reduced public works staffing needs;
We are changing our prescription plan and dental plans, for a total estimated savings of over $1 million per year;
We increased licenses and inspections, fire department, and parking fees in 2016;
We eliminated multiple senior positions through consolidated duties (public safety director, health director, health officer, emergency management director and assistant director);
Since January 2014, we reduced the city fleet by 120 vehicles and eliminated positions by expanding an existing fleet maintenance contract;
We auctioned multiple city properties to expand the tax rolls, while generating approximately $7.1 million in proceeds;
We increased the number of property owners paying taxes by following up on foreclosed and abandoned properties;
We consolidated operations to eliminate leased space for Police Internal Affairs;
City Council has eliminated city council take-home cars, council aides, and health benefits for new members;
Mayor now receives a salary $38,400 less than is authorized
We deployed new technologies to improve code inspections, reduce inventory, and online tax payment;
We launched a cost savings conversion of the municipal telephone system to Voice Over Internet Protocol technology for a savings of approximately $320,000 annually;
We plan to sell the Bader Field property (140 acres of city owned property) to the Atlantic City Municipal Utilities Authority, generating over $100 million to help address the large, legacy liabilities now clouding the city's fiscal future;
We commissioned a comprehensive energy savings plan, now under final review, to reduce energy usage and acts through a comprehensive program of facility and streetlight upgrades. The project is self-funded with $725,000 in annual energy savings and returns $650,000 in net cash flow to the city in year 1 and $45,000 annually;
Overall, the city will cut non-personnel operating costs by at least 10 percent over the next two years, through a set of targeted management strategies already underway, including many of the actions outlined above, such as fleet reduction, space consolidation, energy conservation, conversion to LED streetlights, technology deployment, general cost containment, and cuts in professional services contracts;
We instituted an in-rem foreclosure program that will lead us to several real property auctions per year, and has led to 83 final judgments and 203 pending in the courts
We have auctioned other miscellaneous city property including various municipal property, scrap metal, office furniture, bikes, etc.
We negotiated a $1.4 million annual payment in lieu of taxes from Stockton University once its new campus opens, projected for 2018-2019.
As we put the final touches on our plan, we will continue to reevaluate and analyze ways to produce even more savings and deliver better services to Atlantic City’s residents and visitors.
Our strategy is to leave no stone unturned. Overall, we anticipate millions of dollars in savings through these outside the box revenue initiatives and expenditure reductions. These anticipated savings are estimated at $7.4 million in 2017, $12.7 million in 2018, $17 million in 2019, $17.3 million in 2020, and $18.5 million in 2021.
This comprehensive recovery plan will include increasing revenue, reducing costs, maximizing redirected funds from casinos, receiving state aid, restructuring of debt payments, early retirement incentives, realizing the value of city owned properties and the MUA, and much more, all while maintaining Atlantic City’s sovereign right to local self-governance.
Mayor, Atlantic City