STATE—The Port Authority Board of Commissioners today approved a $6.3 billion budget for 2010 that reduces agency headcount to its lowest levels in 40 years controls and provides for zero growth in operating expenses for the second consecutive year.
The budget also calls for $3.1 billion in capital spending to keep its priority projects moving forward, but also defers certain major capital expenditures in response to the economic downturn, which has significantly impacted the agency.
The budget approved today cuts 150 positions and includes other cost-control measures such as a 20-percent reduction in overtime and a 32-percent reduction in external consultants. Taken on top of previous staff reductions, the Port Authority has now eliminated 507 non-police positions since 2004, a nine percent reduction.
The agency also said its 10-year capital capacity has shrunk $5 billion, from $29.5 billion to $24.5 billion, due to the economic recession, which has caused continued projected declines in activity levels at all Port Authority facilities in 2010 when compared to originally forecasted estimates. The declines include 10 percent less passenger traffic at the airports and 11.8 percent on the PATH rapid-transit system, a decline of 6.1 percent in vehicular traffic at the bridges and tunnels, and a decline of 16 percent in cargo volumes at the marine terminals.
The agency will defer certain discretionary capital projects beyond the end of the current 10-year capital plan in 2016. For example:
• The bus garage for the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which would act as a traffic reliever to the Lincoln Tunnel and adjacent Manhattan streets.
• The replacement of LaGuardia Airport’s Central Terminal Building and Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal A have been restricted to planning dollars, allowing these projects to advance while future funding opportunities are explored.
• The replacement of the Lincoln Tunnel helix must be restaged to ensure that its structural integrity is maintained while deferring its complete replacement.
Priority projects will continue to move forward, such as Access to the Region’s Core, the modernization of the PATH system and the World Trade Center rebuilding, officials said. There will also be enough money in the capital budget to continue maintaining agency facilities in a state of good repair, officials promised.
The 2010 budget calls for no increases in tolls and fares.
Port Authority Chairman Anthony R. Coscia said, “In these tough economic times, we’ve been forced to make difficult choices to live within our means. Making these choices meets our commitment to spend the public’s money wisely and allows us to move forward on the region’s most critical infrastructure needs.”
Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward said, “The Port Authority is not recession-proof and we have been forced to defer some important capital projects due to the historic economic downturn. This budget meets our critical spending needs, but only because we continue to reign in operating expenses and prioritize capital projects, which we will continue to do going forward.”
In addition to the $3.1 billion in capital expenditures, the 2010 budget includes $2.5 billion in operating expenses, $689 million for debt service and $44 million for other expenses, such as heavy vehicles and equipment and computer systems, which are deferred and amortized in future periods.
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