Waiting for the state

Redevelopment agency introduces $88M budget

As the city waits for permission to dissolve the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority, the agency voted at its Oct. 20 meeting to introduce a $88 million 2010-2011 budget – a budget for a fiscal year that already ended. The state Board of Local Finance still has yet to approve the budget from the year before that (2009-2010).
“We should actually be working on our [current] 2011-2012 budget,” said BLRA Executive Director Chris Patella. “We do not know what the delay is in the state, but we hope they will act on both budgets soon.”
Patella said that the state Division of Local Financial has not yet released last year’s budget and customarily, the BLRA uses the final figures of the older budget as the starting point for the next budget.

“We do not know what the delay is in the state, but we hope they will act on both budgets soon.” – Chris Patella
The BLRA, which oversees land deals, is not as necessary an agency as it once was. Although the City Council voted earlier this year to ask the state permission to close down the BLRA as well as the Bayonne Parking Authority, Patella said no action has yet been taken by the Mayor’s Office, and that BLRA will continue to function until formal action is taken. The city has asked the state Local Finance Board for permission to dissolve both of the aforementioned agencies, which according to city officials is a lengthy process.
The BLRA is the city’s redevelopment agency, an autonomous body that the city has used in the past to help broker land deals at the former Military Ocean Terminal of Bayonne on the waterfront. This generated money to help fill a gaping annual budget hole that sometimes exceeded $30 million. In a blockbuster deal last year, Mayor Mark Smith and the BLRA worked out a deal that sold a large portion of the base to the Port Authority for about $245 million to be paid over several decades – with several large payments scheduled for the first few years – that will allow the city to meet some of its financial obligations.
“We still need to deal with the Port Authority,” he said, noting that the BLRA is waiting for another payment in the spring from the Port Authority.
Many of the revenue producing operations the BLRA oversaw vanished when the Port Authority took over the land. While the BLRA still retains ownership of two sections of the MOTBY, all but one of the buildings has been knocked down, and no rent is being generated from the properties. The BLRA, however, still gets a percentage from cruise port operations that are being conducted on the Port Authority property at Cape Liberty.
Patella said the BLRA has been reducing its costs, including a significant reduction in staff.
“We’re down from 20 to 8 staff members,” he said.
He said professional services costs have dropped dramatically over the last two years, from about $3.2 million to less than $800,000.
Some of these cuts were reflected in the BLRA’s actions at the most recent meeting, where they approved professional service contracts for engineering, planning, and environmental engineering, with each contract cut from last year. Birdsall Services Group, which provides engineering services, saw a drop from $200,000 to $150,000 this year. Excel Environmental Resources Inc. saw a reduction from $50,000 last year to a contract not to exceed $35,000 this year.
Jacobs Engineering, which deals with some of the traffic issues for access to MOTBY, saw a reduction in its contract from $50,000 last year to $35,000 this year.
While Krivit and Krivit saw only a modest reduction, their services are still needed for negotiating with the U.S. Army over some of the issues involving the transfer of the ownership of the land from the military to the city.
General bond council McManimon & Scotland saw a reduction in their contract from $150,000 to $100,000 this year.

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