Atlantic City residents confront N.J. overseer about state imposed tax hike

New Jersey overseer Jeff Chiesa, left, listens to Atlantic City resident Charles Goodman at Council meeting.

ATLANTIC CITY - Attending his first City Council meeting, the new state overseer heard from angry residents who said the state's imposed 9 percent tax increase was forcing them to the breaking point.

"This is not a joke. This is not Monopoly," said Tina Watson, who bought her home in Monroe Park in the Westside neighborhood for about $100,000 six years ago. Her taxes are $8,000 a year, she said.

Watson turned to face the state's designee, Jeffrey S. Chiesa, sitting in the front row Thursday night, and said, "You are putting me at the verge where I am going to lose my home, The casinos get their break, when do we get our break?"

Chiesa did not respond. Earlier, he told residents that he would take their concerns into account when he makes his decisions, which he said would come in a "compressed time frame."

Chiesa, a former state attorney general and U.S. senator, has power to hire, fire, cut city departments and authorities, and sell assets. He declined to say what his first moves would be. He said he and his colleague, Ron Israel, would bill for their services at an hourly rate, but he did not disclose the rate.

The state's Local Finance Board imposed the tax increase last month when it rejected the city's own recovery plan, awarded transitional aid, and imposed the takeover of Atlantic City government. The city's tax rate has doubled since 2010, as ratables plunged from $20 billion to $6 billion.

Several council members also objected to the tax hike. The city's plan included no tax increase for five years. "You're chasing working people out of this town," Councilman Jesse Kurtz told Chiesa.

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