$102.8M of debt erased from Essex County Utilities Authority budget

Photo Courtesy of Glen Frieson
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., center, has announced that the Essex County Utilities Authority has erased more than $102.8 million of debt and is now debt free. Burning the ceremonial debt statement with the county executive are, from left, ECUA employee Naomi Strumolo, ECUA acting Executive Director Elmer J. Herrmann Jr., ECUA Chairperson Nicholas Grieco, ECUA Commissioners Victor Afanador and Joseph Tyrrell, Commissioner Patricia Sebold, ECUA public information officer Tom Barrett, ECUA CFO Bethany O’Toole, Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia, Commissioner Brendan Gill, and Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin.

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. announced Wednesday, Oct. 26, that the Essex County Utilities Authority has erased more than $102.8 million of debt and is now debt free. DiVincenzo also announced that the $3.4 million in savings generated from not having to pay the debt will be passed to Essex County’s 22 municipalities through a reduction in garbage tipping fees. The debt was fully repaid over the last 20 years.

“Paying off the ECUA’s debt has been a long-range goal of mine since I was first elected and I am so excited that the day of the ECUA being debt-free has finally come. Getting Essex County’s budget in order and strengthening our financial standing are things I take very seriously, and today’s announcement shows that our austere and conservative budget initiatives are paying off,” DiVincenzo said. “This also will help our municipal partners, who will see significant savings in the cost they pay to dispose of their solid waste. Our municipalities are feeling the pinch because of inflation, rising costs and growing expenses, and these savings will definitely help during this critical time.”

“Being debt free is an example of the hard work by the county executive and the ECUA. This makes Essex County stronger and better,” Commissioner Patricia Sebold said.

“Our county executive had a clear vision for the ECUA and that has been to pay down our debt while continuing to provide competitive and affordable tipping fees for our municipal partners. We are pleased to deliver on his promise, which puts the ECUA free and clear of any debt and helps our municipalities with lower garbage disposal fees,” ECUA acting Executive Director Elmer J. Hermann Jr. said.

“This is a massive accomplishment and, as a mayor, the money we are getting back will help offset the rising costs of government in other areas,” Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia said.

Back in 2003, the ECUA had $102,814,450 in debt. Among the budgetary reforms DiVincenzo initiated were reducing the number of ECUA employees to fewer than 10 people. DiVincenzo and the ECUA also negotiated favorable tipping fees — the cost to dispose of household waste — paid by municipalities with some of the revenue being used to pay off the debt. In addition, the ECUA took advantage of favorable interest rates and refinanced outstanding debt at lower rates in 2006, 2009 and 2016.

With the debt erased, Essex County’s municipalities will see significant cost reductions in solid waste disposal fees. It is estimated a total of almost $3.4 million will be saved on an annual basis. The breakdown by municipality is: Belleville, $192,192.81; Bloomfield, $220,320.40; Caldwell, $41,179.67; Cedar Grove, $55,211.09; East Orange, $361,035.24; Essex Fells, $13,999.83; Fairfield, $41,429.64; Glen Ridge, $39,179.61; Irvington, $287,749.98; Livingston, $123,805.11; Maplewood, $50,070.12; Millburn, $69,893.47; Montclair, $134,398.94; North Caldwell, $28,520.13; Newark, $944,767; Nutley, $148,038.72; Orange, $172,507.18; Roseland, $28,398.87; South Orange, $62,476.08; Verona, $56,149.02; West Caldwell, $67,418.64; and West Orange, $240,204.10. This makes a total of $3,378,945.65.