Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson has traditionally presented his annual budget message in January, but due to several unknown costs related to COVID-19 the budget presentation has been postponed to February to provide a more accurate financial snapshot for 2021.
“While our fiscal team works year-round to monitor costs and prepare for the new budget, COVID-19 has introduced new challenges and unforeseen expenses,” Levinson said in a news release. “We have drafted a number of budgets based on various scenarios. I could present the numbers we have now, but they will inevitably change. We should have additional information within the next few weeks that will help us confirm our budget figures.”
According to Levinson, the information the county is awaiting includes the certification of the 2020 casino gross gaming revenues and the election costs and budget for the Superintendent of Elections and the Board of Elections.
There is also pending legislation that could have an impact if passed. It would require the availability of voting machines throughout the county 10 days prior to special, primary and general elections. Additional staff and resources would be needed to meet this requirement.
Another factor is whether there will be additional COVID-19 funding for 2021 that could help offset an estimated $2 million in county costs to provide testing, personal protective equipment, additional medical supplies, vaccinations, contact tracing, cleaning and disinfecting of public buildings, social distancing partitions, mail-in-ballots, secured drop boxes and more.
“Budgets are always complicated, and perhaps none more than this year,” Levinson said. “But rest assured that Atlantic County remains extremely solvent, is maintaining its conservative financial policies, low debt ratio, and pay-as-you-go practices. Atlantic County will continue to be a model of fiscal responsibility and integrity.”
Levinson noted that the county cannot adopt its budget before Gov. Phil Murphy introduces the state budget that is expected to occur on Feb. 23. With that in mind, Levinson will likely present the 2021 budget to the Board of County Commissioners on Feb. 16 with potential adoption as early as March 16.