CLARK – The Mayors of Woodbridge, Rahway and Clark spoke out last week to criticize high costs at the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority and called on the authority’s commissioners to vote against any budget increases.
The mayors also called for the formation of a budget oversight committee to advise the authority, which would be chaired by Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, a former state treasurer.
The authority, a non-profit agency that processes sewage for 14 municipalities, raised its budget by more than 30 percent this year, from $19 million to more than $26 million. Authority officials blamed debt payments for a $250 million court-ordered facility upgrade for the budget increase.
But at a time when everyone’s finances are stretched thin, the mayors believe that the sewerage authority should be doing more to contain costs.
“Every level of government is cutting costs left and right and living within caps, but the authority doesn’t have to,” McCormac said. “That has to change.”
“The problem is for us is about a third of our town’s sewage goes to Rahway Valley Sewer, and it costs significantly more than the two-thirds that goes to Middlesex County Utilities Authority,” said McCormac. “We need to do something about that.”
The mayors want the sewerage authority’s commissioners to postpone the adoption of the yearly budget, which is scheduled for presentation today and a vote on Nov. 23, until after the proposed oversight committee can make recommendations.
The committee would be made up of a mayor, administrator or chief financial officer from each of the 14 member municipalities according to McCormac. Clark business administrator John Laezza and Rahway business administrator Peter Pelissier would serve with the Woodbridge mayor on the proposed committee.
The mayors said that the committee’s recommendations would be non-binding and that they are not trying to take control of the authority. The mayors said they have the support of eight of the 14 member municipalities.
While the sewerage authority is governed by a board of unpaid commissioners, McCormac pointed out that “not everyone on the board is a financial expert.”
In addition to the mayors’ shared concerns over costs, Rahway Mayor James Kennedy wants the authority to return its annual surpluses to municipalities. This year, the sewerage authority had a $2.9 million surplus. Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso was critical of the sewerage authority’s recently upgraded $250 million treatment plant’s cogeneration facility, which has yet to work since the upgrades were completed because of a mechanical failure.
Michael J. Brinker Jr., the sewerage authority’s executive director, said that the operating budget actually decreased by $75,000 last year and said that the mayors knew about and supported the debt service that swelled the overall budget.
Earlier last month, state Assembly Republican leader Alex DeCroce criticized the sewerage authority for excessive spending on Christmas and retirement parties, releasing various expense vouchers including a $1,307 bar tab for one event.
According to sewerage authority commissioners, this year’s Christmas party was cancelled.
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