Atlantic City, New Jersey, narrowly avoided a government shutdown that would have led to the suspension of nonessential city services starting tomorrow. However, a city official says that even if the government had shut down, the city would have kept running its servers and departments connected to them.
Atlantic City Mayor Donald Guardian had said last month that the government might be forced to suspend nonessential services from April 8 to May 2, when quarterly tax revenue is set to roll in. The city’s dire financial situation and the state’s inability to pass a rescue package had forced it to the brink. However, as NJ.com reports, “The City Council voted 9-0 on Wednesday night to avert having to temporarily close City Hall by lengthening the payroll schedule for municipal employees from 14 to 28 days.”
The city’s police officers, firefighters and garbage collectors had agreed to work through a shutdown, with the understanding that they would be paid when revenue came in. According to the Press of Atlantic City website, “The plan allows all employees to work and keeps City Hall open through April.”
Jasmine Rivera, an assistant to Guardian, told StateTech that the city is “moving forward [with] regular business.”
“The staff is moving to a 28-day pay period to help account for the funding that we’re trying to re-accrue,” she says.
Rivera says the city does not have a great deal of IT infrastructure to maintain. She notes that the city licenses software from Edmunds & Associates for its payroll and accounting services. Most forms — even online ones — are filled out by hand, she says.
However, the city had contingency plans to keep its servers online if nonessential services had been upended, according to Rivera. “There were plans to maintain that and keep that running,” she says.
Rivera says that the city had planned to keep its computer network connected with essential departments, like the Tax Collector Division and the Bureau of Vital Statistics, which maintains files on all the city’s births, deaths, marriages, domestic partnerships and civil unions. Those departments would “all have access to the city server” in the event of a shutdown, she says.
Rivera directed additional questions about the city’s IT infrastructure to Bernadette Kucharczuk, director of Atlantic City’s Management Information Systems Division, who did not respond to a request for comment.
Only a Temporary Fix
NJ.com reported that Guardian’s office called the city council’s vote a “temporary fix,” which will give the city more time to negotiate a financial rescue deal with the New Jersey Assembly. There are sharp disagreements about the path forward between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Guardian, according to NBC10.com, and, as the Associated Press reports, between Christie and Vincent Prieto, speaker of the Assembly.
How did Atlantic City get here? As NBC10.com reports, “The city still has not found a way to cope with the contraction of its casino industry, which has lost more than half its revenue — and four of its 12 casinos — since 2006. A pair of assistance bills is stalled in the state Assembly. One would let casinos make payments in lieu of taxes in return for not appealing their tax assessments — something they have done to devastating effect in recent years.”
The city could be in the same financial straits, with nonessential services on the line, in several months. “Projections show the city should be in the same situation in June-ish, maybe July,” City Council President Marty Small told the Press of Atlantic City. “Hopefully, by that time things work out. And if they don’t, we’ll be in an extremely dangerous situation.”