NextGen Aviation Research and Technology Park’s board on Thursday approved a clean 2011 audit showing that the organization has proper internal controls over its finances.

Net assets have increased substantially from $32,901 in 2010 to $168,760 in 2011. That’s primarily due to a decrease in marketing and professional expenses and an increase in the park’s membership fees and other donations, according to the audit by Ford-Scott & Associates. Private companies and educational institutions pay membership fees to be involved in the park’s progress.

In 2010, consultants were used as the park began to consider how to attract its first members, and another firm was hired for startup website development. Marketing and professional services decreased from almost $109,000 in 2010 to about $29,000 in 2011.

The bulk of the park’s operating expenses, including park Executive Director Ron Esposito’s $150,298 salary, come from a Casino Reinvestment Development Authority grant totaling almost $930,000. CRDA reimburses the park for eligible expenses as they’re incurred.

The park’s board is in the midst of pivotal lease negotiations with the South Jersey Economic Development District, which controls the lease for the park’s land. The park’s board hopes to soon enter into a formal agreement with New Vistas Corporation of Northfield to develop the park’s land, but construction can’t begin until the lease is transferred. The board has until late August to enter into a formal arrangement with New Vistas.

Esposito said he and Michael Cohan, principal of New Vistas, have met with several potential tenants.

The names of the tenants have not been released, but Esposito said some of the companies have a significant interest in unmanned aerial vehicle development. Esposito and Cohan also plan to speak with more potential tenants at the Avionics for NextGen conference, which will take place Sept. 18 at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel.

Meanwhile on Thursday, the board also voted to ammend its bylaws to increase the number of board members from 11 to 13. The additional two members would be made up of representatives from the park’s eventual tenants.

Ed Salmon, the park board’s president, said membership on the board could be an added incentive in negotiations as the park attemps to lock in large potential tenants.

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