Forced to soon decide whether the South Jersey Economic Development District will continue to exist, its board will meet Monday to discuss the district’s financial position.
SJEDD, the organization that led the $7 million infrastructure installation at the NextGen Aviation Research and Technology Park, is more than $1 million in debt, primarily due to that project. The district may be able to sell the project’s architectural plans to make up some of the expenses but the district will still be saddled with most of the debt.
On Monday, the district is scheduled to vote to accept the 2011 audit. Preliminary findings of that audit by Ford-Scott Associates show that a proper system of checks and balances did not exist. Former executive director Gordon Dahl, who was removed in April, had the power to cut checks to himself from the district’s bank accounts.
Steve O’Connor, the former Cape May County administration, has been charged with sorting out the district’s financial situation through his consulting firm, South Jersey Consultants. He earns $9,500 a month, according to his contract.
The board, however, is also scheduled to discuss O’Connor’s contract on Monday in executive session. The district’s daily finances have proved challenging, as it’s been unable to pay contractors, including its own attorney.
According to financial statements released in May, the district had just $14,301 in its operating, savings, and payroll accounts; its monthly operating expenses totaled more than $28,000.
Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem counties are members of the district. Atlantic County voted this year to withdraw from the district once it began to understand the looming financial problems. Atlantic County, however, still sends representation to the district’s meetings in what officials have said is an attempt to foster communication.
The three counties remaining in the district originally said the district had to prove whether it could be viable by mid-June, but that deadline passed. Officials said it was not possible to make that decision until O’Connor could compete further financial analysis.
O’Connor’s current contract expires in September. He has said the district must decide soon whether it will remain a functioning organization.
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