Tolls will not increase next year on the four bridges operated by the Delaware River Port Authority, and DRPA workers won't get raises, under the agency's proposed 2015 budget unveiled Monday.
The budget also makes no provision for toll discounts for commuters and other regular users of the Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Commodore Barry, and Betsy Ross Bridges. Several DRPA board members have urged the agency to restore toll discounts, which were phased out four years ago.
The proposed $283 million operating budget is 2 percent higher than the 2014 budget of $277 million, driven by higher costs for electricity to power PATCO trains, insurance payments to injured customers, pensions, employee health care, and legal costs.
Almost half of the budget, $135 million, will go toward payments on DRPA's $1.5 billion debt.
The DRPA's finance committee reviewed the budget proposal Monday, and the full DRPA board is to vote Dec. 10 on the spending plan.
A scheduled biennial toll increase, to match inflation, will not be necessary next year. That was no surprise, as DRPA officials have said for months that they would block the scheduled 25-cent increase in the toll, which is currently $5 for autos.
"Given our financial position, we believe there is no reason to implement the CPI toll increase," chief financial officer James White said Monday.
The proposed budget includes no money for raises for a seventh consecutive year for the DRPA's nonunion workers. Gov. Christie, who has veto power over the actions of the bistate agency's board, has insisted on no raises.
Jeffrey L. Nash, the Camden County freeholder who is vice chairman of the DRPA board, asked why there was no commuter toll discount included in the spending plan.
White said, "Any discount reduces the funds available for the general fund and funding capital projects."
The DRPA's general fund has grown to $450 million, and the 2015 budget envisions adding $46 million to it. The fund is to be used for future bridge repairs and construction, to reduce the agency's dependence on borrowing for those projects.
Since the elimination of commuter discounts, the only discount for DRPA customers is 50 percent off for senior citizens who use a New Jersey-issued E-ZPass and provide proof of age.
The budget assumes revenue from tolls ($291 million) and PATCO fares ($26 million) will remain about the same as in 2014.
Bridge tolls provide 88 percent of the DRPA's revenue.