Atlantic County residents have some tough choices ahead as issues like unemployment and a shrinking ratable base dominate the landscape.

Atlantic City Candidates Forum (Photo by Ilya Hemlin, Townsquare Media)

Senate, Assembly, Freeholder, and Mayoral candidates were at Atlantic City's Tropicana Resort & Casino Tuesday for a candidate's forum hosted by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce. General revitalization of the city and county was a hot topic. While unemployment has been an issue statewide, Senator Jim Whelan says it holds a special significance in Atlantic County.

"Our unemployment rate is higher than the state average which is, of course, higher than the national average, so we're really suffering on that front," Whelan said.

Compounded with the unemployment problem, Whelan says falling casino revenues have led to a drop in the ratable base. Recently, Atlantic City's Borgata Casino & Resort was awarded a $48 million tax appeal from the city after they claimed their property assessment was too high.

"The reality is the value of the casinos is less than it was, and as such, we all have to be prepared. First thing we have to do is across the board in Atlantic City and Atlantic County is recognizing that government needs to tighten its belt yet again," Whelan said.

"That may mean some services may need to be cut back at the city and county level because the money just isn't there."

He says the lack of revenue is also ultimately affecting the amount of money given to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. He points out the city really needs to focus on more non-gaming revenue streams.

"Putting more money on convention and trade shows and events, because the convenience gambler is lost to us and it's going to help drive the Atlantic City and regional economy," he said.