We have had a busy first quarter here at AIA-NJ. In these last 3 months we visited Washington DC and met with your representatives to press an agenda important to the health and financial well being of our members, developed a focused educational series for our members, worked with USGBC-NJ to deliver sustainability training at no cost through a Department of Labor Grant, and continue with the planning of East Coast Green whose registration is scheduled to open later this month. In addition, we have actively followed local legislation and policy issues that deeply affect us all, including the budget cuts proposed by the Governor as well as testifying on pertinent legislation such as S239 related to creating a green building standard for school construction.
Architects’ financial health continues to be the canary of the economy. AIA-NJ remains committed to strengthening the bottom line of our members this year. The educational & networking opportunities provided by your local section as well as the State can give you the ability to expand your knowledge and services to attract new and more clients. Our efforts remain focused around the 4 ‘mega issues’ (Sustainability, Architect as the Lead professional, Value of the Architect, and Zoning Ridiculousness) with much activity on several of those fronts continues.
With the recent budget buts, I have turned my attention to analyizing how this will affect our profession now and long term. Our intention is to collect feedback through our Section leaders and make our collective voice heard in Trenton. The early view from 30,000 feet is this as it relates to our profession:
1. Eliminating all compensation for all members of Boards and commissions (i.e. State Board of Architects). While this is certainly an admirable way to save money it will shrink the pool of qualified candidates from serving on Boards, Commissions, etc to only those that can afford the expense associated with serving on such Boards. Eliminating any benefits accrued from such service would be acceptable but there could be an unforeseen consequence to limiting expense and reimbursements for out of pocket costs.
2. $7.6 million for Highlands and Pinelands direct aid will be eliminated. Could have an effect on smart growth and smart design and sustainability
3. Freezing of ½ of the money collected from the UEZ tax that now goes to fund EDA projects in UEZ zones. This will have a “halt” response for further EDA projects in municipalities designated as urban enterprise zones.
4. A 15% reduction of the debt Service. School Districts that have received financing for their projects through EDA will be assessed an amount equal to 15% of their proportionate share of FY 2011 interest and principle payments on outstanding bonds issued. Again, this will drain the pool of available cash for development projects and all but stop school construction in the State as many are already planning major layoffs to offset reduced aid.
We will continue to review the budget cuts and work with the State to get through the tough decisions that need to be made while at the same time pressing to ensure the design and construction fields are not further depressed in an already fragile market. If you have specific concerns, thoughts, or real time stories affecting your practice please make them known to us. The more information and testimonials from our members the stronger our voice.
Jason Kliwinski, AIA, LEED AP