Atlantic City has so little money left that it could miss a $1.8 million bond payment due Sunday, a step that would make it the first New Jersey municipality to default on debt since the Great Depression.
The Jersey Shore gambling destination has endured years of strain as a third of its casinos shut down. But now its cash levels are low enough that bankruptcy is a possibility for the 39,000-population city.
Once prized as a vacation destination because of its giant casinos and boardwalk, Atlantic City is in this position because of a declining economy and mounting debt. Its predicament is more severe than most distressed U.S. municipalities because it has the worst credit rating of any American city.I track this stuff at this post. Atlantic City first made the list on December 21, 2013. It's been a long time since I've re-visited the "cities" page.
Camden and Newark made the list some time ago. I was curious how they turned out. This was as curious as I got -- NJspotlight.com reported back on July 22, 2013:
Detroit’s bankruptcy sent shock waves through political circles and intensified the debate over whether state and local pension systems are underfunded, but don’t look for Camden or other distressed New Jersey cities to follow Detroit into bankruptcy court, municipal finance experts said.
While more than 20 counties and municipalities and authorities in 10 states have filed bankruptcy since 2003 because of poor financial practices or unsustainable pension debt, New Jersey has not had a local government bankruptcy since the Great Depression.
“Camden in many ways is in worse shape than Detroit, but Camden isn’t in bankruptcy and isn’t going to go into bankruptcy,” said Marc Pfeiffer, assistant director of the Local Government Research Center at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.
“While New Jersey has a few municipalities that are severely distressed, we are considered one of the better states in oversight and managing funds, and it’s a system that continues to work. The states where municipalities have gone bankrupt were those with a lack of oversight and limited engagement by the state government until it’s too late,” said Pfeiffer, who spent more than 20 years tracking New Jersey municipal finances before retiring last year as deputy director of the state Department of Community Affairs’ Division of Local Government Finance.
Camden, Paterson, Trenton, Harrison, and Asbury Park are all under supervision by the state’s Local Government Finance Board and part of a special transition aid program “designed to keep municipalities afloat,” Pfeiffer said, and both Harrison and Salem City are under close fiscal supervision because of problems with development bonds.
“A bankruptcy like Detroit just isn’t going to happen in New Jersey,” agreed Jon Moran, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities’ longtime legislative director.
“Here in New Jersey, for a community to declare bankruptcy, you have to get approval from the Local Government Finance Board, and before it gets to that point, the Board and the Director of the Division of Local Government Services will already have taken steps to fix the problem.”It appears Atlantic City somehow slipped off their radar scope.
I really don't know.
A Note for the Granddaughters
Speaking of New Jersey, one of my best summers (in retrospect) was in Westfield, NJ, a bedroom community of NYC, many years ago. I always have to check the journal to get the year correct ... let's see... give me a moment ... ah, yes, here it is ... the summer of 1971.
I had a summer job there; it was the most difficult job I ever had, but I probably learned more about life / unit of time (time best measured in hours, perhaps -- it was that intense). I've blogged about it several times before so I won't repeat the story. A typical "Westfield" post is here, but it doesn't say much about the job. Whatever. But it does talk about mini Basque cheese, which is more interesting.
Our younger daughter is now in the cheese-making business, focusing on goat cheese.