One Bill Would Create an Urban Enterprise Zone in Atlantic City; Another would Study Consolidating a Number of School Districts
Two property tax relief measures sponsored by Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo to help provide a shot-in-the-arm to Atlantic County and lessen the burden on beleaguered residents advanced in the Assembly on Thursday.
The first bill (A-3920) is designed to create jobs, spark economic development and provide vital property tax relief by creating an Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) for Atlantic City.
“This is a common sense step to create economic growth that will help revitalize Atlantic City by encouraging businesses to develop and create private sector jobs through public and private investment,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “We need jobs. We need investment. We need economic development. And we need property tax relief for hard-working families, seniors and small businesses. This brings all four to Atlantic City and will be another vital step toward bringing a new day to the city built around economic prosperity for everyone.”
The UEZ Program – first created in 1983 – offers participating businesses incentives that encourage business growth and stimulate local economies. Approximately 6,800 certified UEZ businesses participate and benefit from the advantages of the UEZ program statewide. These include a number of tax and other financial incentives including provided tax credits to hire local workers.
Atlantic City would be New Jersey’s 33rd Urban Enterprise Zone, and under Mazzeo’s bill it would also help generate property tax relief for Atlantic City residents and businesses.
The bill, designated the “Atlantic City Urban Enterprise Zone and Property Tax Relief Act,” authorizes the creation of an Urban Enterprise Zone in Atlantic City for a one-time term of 10 years and would allocate a significant portion of the sales and use tax collected during that time to go directly back to the city for property tax relief.
Qualifying retail businesses in the zone would be entitled to collect sales and use tax at a reduced rate of 50 percent of the standard sales and use tax (SUT). Mirroring legislation sponsored by Speaker Vincent Prieto late last year that passed both legislative houses, thirty percent of the funds deposited in the UEZ Assistance Fund would be returned to the City of Atlantic City to be used specifically for property tax relief for residents and businesses.
“This bill has been designed specifically to attract new customers and businesses to Atlantic City while at the same time giving incentives to businesses to hire local workers,” added Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “This temporary relief will help buoy the city and lessen the burden on property taxpayers while it transitions from a casino gaming destination to a resort destination.”
Under the bill, a casino is not eligible for the benefits under the UEZ program but a business operating on casino property, not owned by a casino, may be eligible if it otherwise meets the criteria for business eligibility.
The bill comes as roughly 8,300 workers lost their jobs in the casino industry in 2014 due to the closings of the Atlantic Club, Revel, Showboat and Trump Plaza. During this time, the ratable base in Atlantic City declined by almost $3 billion due to property tax appeals by casinos resulting in more than $150 million in successful property tax appeals. As a result, property taxes have increased by 53 percent over the last two years.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee.
The second bill (A-3578) approved on Thursday, also sponsored by Mazzeo, is designed to provide broader property tax relief to Atlantic County through the consolidation of school district operations.
The bill would allocate $85,000 for a study on the feasibility of consolidating the Northfield, Linwood, Somers Point, and Mainland Regional school districts in Atlantic County into a single school district with one superintendent. The Northfield, Linwood and Somers Point school districts are sending districts for the Mainland Regional school district.
“This study will help us determine if we can provide the same quality, public education for our students while saving taxpayers their hard-earned money,” added Mazzeo. “If we can reduce costs by avoiding the duplication, it’s the taxpayers who win in the end. We need to stop talking about shared services and consolidation and actually act on them. If the study shows real savings to be had we should act in the interest of taxpayers.”
The funding would be allocated to the state Department of Community Affairs from the Property Tax Relief Fund, a portion of which is currently designated to support local government unit consolidation.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.