By Susan C. Moeller / Senior Reporter
LYNDHURST (Dec. 10, 2010) — The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission released its annual report Monday, Nov. 29. The document, required by state law, provides a snapshot of the commission’s activities and finances for the year.
An anticipated influx of federal money, in the form of a $10 million grant awarded for the construction of a coordinated traffic signal program throughout the region, is one highlight.
The amount far exceeds other recent federal grants to the NJMC. During 2005 and 2006, the NJMC was awarded a total of $653,000, according to Brian Aberback, spokesman for the commission.
In addition to drawing significant federal financial support, the program will make a dramatic difference in local traffic flow — a 25- to 30-percent reduction in congestion is anticipated, according to NJMC Executive Director Robert Ceberio.
Coordinating traffic signals is the “most cost effective approach to eliminate congestion” in the area, because the project does not require major construction, Ceberio said in a phone interview with The Leader.
Another boon for traffic flow is the completion of the Route 17 flood control program. “The fact that Route 17 did not close yesterday,” Ceberio said with reference to last week’s strong rain and windstorms, “is the major, major story for Route 17.”
Ceberio also singled out the NJMC’s solar assistance program as “key” and “innovative.” The program allows for local governments to solicit proposals for lower energy rates as a group. Those sorts of municipal cost-saving measures are an important goal for the NJMC, Ceberio said.
Also included in the annual report is a summary of the NJMC’s finances as of December 2009.
In both its governmental and solid waste accounts, the NJMC ended 2009 with a deficit. Revenues for solid waste operations were $2.6 million lower than the program’s expenditures of $16.7 million.
On the governmental side, Magnet grants and mitigation expenses pushed costs $5.4 million higher than the $13.4 million in revenue received by the NJMC. The deficit was covered by money in an escrow account designated for mitigation and Magnet grants, according to Aberback.
With the current year ending in less than a month, finances are looking better, according to Ceberio. “We are in much better shape than we were,” he said.
The commission has held its spending flat, or reduced it, over the course of the last four years, Ceberio added. “We recognize that we can only spend up to our revenue stream,” he said.
And, he emphasized, the NJMC operates without debt — a rarity among state agencies. “Unless we can do it in cash,” he said. “We don’t do it.”
An exact picture of the NJMC’s finances for 2010 is not available, because the accounting year has not ended, Aberback said.
The complete presentation, which is set to music, is available in digital format at the commission’s Web site. Ceberio is set to retire at the end of the year.