Tough Love for Brigantine: Schools, Business and Real Estate Trends in 2018.

simpson guenther brigantine
Councilman Simpson & Mayor Guenther

Brigantine Taxpayers Association (BTA) has penned another open letter to the residents of Brigantine. The BTA asked: What’s Ahead for Brigantine?

Let’s take a look at some of the current trends in Brigantine, as influenced by the BTA’s recent letter.

The residential population of Brigantine is in steady decline.

  • In 2000, Brig had a population of 12,594.
  • By 2010, the Brigantine population plummeted to 9,450.
  • The current, full-time population population of Brigantine is now less than 8,000.

Second-home owners make up the majority of home owners and taxpayers in Brigantine. This majority doesn’t vote, although they can, in certain circumstances.

Decline in Brigantine school enrollment. Hard to believe, Brigantine still has 2, fully-staffed schools. Many school positions could be shared between the 2 schools. Oddly, they are not. These 2 Brig schools were built to accommodate more than 1,200 students. Today, there’s only Brigantine 571 students, pre-k through grade 8.

Brigantine School Board controlled by Mayor Phil Guenther.

School board meetings are not recorded for the later viewing. Meeting agendas & meeting minutes are not posted to city website.

The number of Brigantine businesses are also in decline. Fewer able to operate and survive on a year-round basis. Many Brigantine businesses close during the winter months. Some reduce hours & days of operation. There’s just not enough full-time residents to support the year-round community.

Only the Real-Estate business benefit from the high percentage of second-home owners in Brigantine.

Brigantine’s municipal budget, public employees and full-time residents benefit greatly, from the high property taxes paid primarily by part-time / 2nd home-owners.

Can Brigantine attract more full-time residents? If not, the City’s economic base will continue to get squeezed. Businesses will cease to operate. New ones not likely to open.

As Brigantine Councilman Vince Sera noted: the ratables (taxes) that 2nd home-owners pay, are the economic engine of the Brigantine community. Tourism isn’t Brigantine’s top industry….it’s Real Estate taxes paid by 2nd homeowners (with no voting rights).

Why the population decline in Brigantine?

  • Boom-sale years before 2008 – many residents “cashed in” and left Brigantine.
  • 2008 recession
  • High property taxes and sale prices – forced owners to leave, and discouraged young families from buying in.
  • Casino closures
  • Damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, properties abandoned.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? (pun-intended) Yes. Atlantic City’s economy is finally out of free-fall. AC job ops are growing and diversifying. There could be a possible spillover effect for Brigantine.

What can Brigantine do better?

  • Recognizing our island’s advantages and assets. Market and advertise them better. Past efforts by local business orgs, while well intended, had little, positive affect on home values and tourism trends.
  • Increase marketing of our island as a good place to retire and as a family hometown to a wider area.
  • Improve our schools’ academic performance to encourage families to become year-round residents.
  • Let’s have more cooperation among local organizations, businesses, residents and government to generate ideas and work to achieve them.
  • Reduce having same handful of insiders placed on committees. Some call them re-treads. Some call them placeholders or puppets.

Brigantine City Council recently appointed 4 people (mayor, deputy mayor, former State Assemblyman from Brigantine and the Chamber president) to the Economic Development, Tourism and Special Events Advisory Commission. What does it do? Does it have public meetings? It appears that it could be more effective and transparent in fulfilling its title.