NJ Superior Court Orders State To Pay Millions To Atlantic County
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson took the state of New Jersey to court and won a big judicial verdict.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Blee has awarded significant damages to the County of Atlantic over the Payment in lieu of Taxes (PILOT) state legislation.
As a result of Blee’s decision, Atlantic County taxpayers are going to receive $ 22 million this year.
Levinson has long maintained that the County of Atlantic taxpayers were shortchanged by the state of New Jersey in a reinterpretation of the PILOT funding formula.
You have to give Levinson a lot of credit here. Because of his aggressive stance and willingness to file litigation against the state of New Jersey … it cost his own son, Matthew Levinson his seat as chairman of the New Jersey casino control commission.
By all accounts, Matthew Levinson did a great job on the Casino Control Commission and as its Chairman.
Most everyone agrees that former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did not reappoint Matthew Levinson solely because Dennis Levinson filed suit against state of New Jersey. It was an apparent case of of political retaliation and it was wrong.
"This is a big win for the taxpayers of Atlantic County," said Levinson. "Our fight was to protect their best interests and hold the State accountable for its court-ordered agreement."
Judge Blee noted in his July 29, 2022 decision that "the State made a 'calculated decision' to willfully violate multiple Court Orders, when it issued deficient payment to the county,” said Levinson.
"We advised the governor the amended Pilot legislation would breach the terms of the Consent Order, but our repeated attempts to communicate were ignored," said Levinson.
"The governor quickly signed the bill four days before Christmas 2021 during a lame duck legislative session,” said Levinson.
The court had previously ruled in favor of the County of Atlantic, when it decided that the state of New Jersey had violated the terms of a 2018 Consent Order.
The legislation is called the Casino Property Tax Stabilization Act, which allows for the Atlantic City casinos to make payments in lieu of taxes, rather than being assessed as is the case with all other ratables.
This was a legislative remedy to provide the Atlantic City casino industry with stability for a number of years going forward, as they emerged from the deep, great recession and the contraction and loss of four casino properties.
At the time, Atlantic City had the highest unemployment rate and home foreclosure rate in America.
Judge Blee's order was issued July 29, 2022. It requires the following:
The State must pay Atlantic County $2,362,500 within five days for a shortfall in payments made to the County of Atlantic. This is retroactive for all of 2022.
Judge Blee also awarded an increase to the County of Atlantic for payments due on August 15, 2022 and November 15, 2022.
Levinson had sought to resolve differences through mediation. The state of New Jersey rejected this, despite the fact that the courts recommended it.
"It's unconscionable that the State continues to drag this out as long as possible and squander taxpayer money," said Levinson.
“The longer this continues, the more money ends up in the pockets of the attorneys. Even when we win, the taxpayers lose,” said Levinson.
It’s true, the taxpayers are paying the tab at both the county of Atlantic and the state of New Jersey levels. It’s just not right.
Levinson has stated that the state of New Jersey will not even sit down and discuss this situation.
It remains to be seen how far the state is willing to appeal this latest decision.
SOURCE: Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson & New Jersey Superior Court Judge Michael Blee (July 29, 2022 decision).