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NEW YORK CITY-The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is approving its 2010 budget, which caps off at $6.3 billion. The measures the dual-state agency is using to reach that goal are an amalgamation of layoffs, postponements and financial trimming, which the agency feels will control costs for the upcoming year.

The staff will see a 150-person reduction, which officially drops the Port’s headcount to its lowest levels in 40 years. Financial measures will show a 0% growth in operating expenses, a 20% drop in overtime and external consultants will be reduced by 32%–equal to about $15 million.

“The Port Authority is not recession-proof,” explains Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward in a statement. “Like all public agencies, we have been hit hard by the economic downturn and have made difficult decisions to make certain our spending lives within our means. This budget meets our critical spending priorities, but only because we continue to rein in operating expenses and prioritize capital projects, which we will continue to do going forward.”

On the upside, there will be $3.1-million investment in capital projects, specifically the World Trade Center and the ARC tunnel. However, bus riders will have to wait until 2016 for to see some of their Lincoln Tunnel woes cured. An intended “reliever” for the tunnel, the Bus Garage for the Port Authority Bus Terminal will be put on hold until after 2016. Additionally postponed until 2016 is the replacement of the infamous Lincoln Tunnel helix. More traveler wish-list items that will be deferred are the replacement of the LaGuardia Central Terminal Building and Newark Liberty Airport’s Terminal A. These projects will have a restriction that limits them only to planning dollars, which essentially places these projects on deck, moving forward when funding becomes available. Stewart Airport’s modernization program has not been fully stopped, as a long-term strategy, but will be slowed for budgetary limits.

These delays are a result of the agency’s reduction of capital capacity from $29.5 million to $24.5 million. The Investing In State of Good Repair project takes priority, so these other projects–considered discretionary–find themselves in a holding pattern.

“We must do everything we can to spend the public’s money wisely,” Anthony R. Coscia, Port Authority chairman, says in a statement.

Helping to hem in the budget will be the closing of the Ramada Plaza Hotel at JFK International Airport. The agency cites “declining aviation activity and a need for substantial renovation” as its reasoning for closing the interloper lodging. Its closure will save the agency $1 million per month.

Meanwhile some prioritized expenses will take the lead, with $444 million in operating costs going to facility security and $326 million in capital security projects. Also, $21 million will go toward “ongoing conservation and environmental programs to reduce greenhouse gas emission, a new Clean Trucks Program to finance replacement of older, more polluting trucks at port facilities and other regional investments in green projects.

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