Port commissioners take issue with budget increases

Revenues are projected to increase about 5 percent for the Port of Bremerton next year. But expenses are expected to be up more than 22 percent.

That was the preliminary report given to port commissioners Tuesday when they began the process of looking at the 2014 operating budget for the port.

While the document that was presented by CFO Becky Swanson was a draft budget, commissioners didn’t respond well to the increases in expenditures from $3.4 million this year to $3.6 in 2014.

“It’s just not right,” said Larry Stokes, chairman of the port commission. “If my math is correct, we’re spending more than we’re taking in. There’s no way in good faith we can do that.”

Commissioner Axel Strakeljahn agreed.

“Being up 5 percent in revenues while we’re up 21 or 22 percent in expenditures just doesn’t pencil out,” he said.

Commissioners spent more than 90 minutes going through the draft budget line item by line item looking for places to cut . Among the items that were reduced were the port’s contributions to the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) which was proposed to be $25,000. This year the port contributed $20,000 to KEDA, an organization that markets Kitsap County as a place for businesses including aerospace companies to locate.

“Just how many businesses has KEDA brought to us?,” asked Stokes. “What you’re asking for is a 25 percent increase in what we give to them. Tell me that we’re getting our money’s worth.”

Port CEO Tim Thomson said the work that KEDA does is important to the success of the port’s industrial and airport properties, but that there was not a number certain of businesses that KEDA had brought to the port.

“I can’t say that there are any,” Thomson said. “But the work the (KEDA executive director) John Powers does is important to us. He’s done a good job of presenting his work in updates to the commissioners.”

Ultimately, commissioners decided to keep funding KEDA at $20,000, the same level as in 2013.

Commissioners also elected to fund KADA, an aerospace and defense group that is a spin-off from KEDA, at $10,000 and contribute $7,500 to a special KADA fund that is working with the Washington Aerospace Partnership to land the Boeing 777X work in Washington state.

Another group that led to a long discussion was Visit Kitsap Peninsula, a tourism and promotion office. Currently the port funds the group at $300, but Visit Kitsap was asking for $12,000 to $18,000.

Commissioners questioned what the port was actually getting from Visit Kitsap Peninsula, and it executive director Patricia Graf-Hoke, who was in the audience, told them that for years the port was paying very little and getting a lot of play on the organizations website and in promotional material such as its new water trails map. She said Visit Kitsap promotes the port’s marinas and events that bring people to both marinas and the airport.

After a lengthy back-and-forth during which commissioners complimented her on her work, they decided to contribute $5,000 to the tourism group.

Commissioners also cut the amounts slated in the draft budget for the Kitsap Entrepreneur Center, West Sound Technology Association and to a scholarship fund with the Bremerton Pilots Association.

They maintained $7,000 to attend the Farnborough Air Show in London in 2014, along with $4,800 to attend two other air shows in the U.S.

Commissioners also will support the Bremerton Marina Rock the Dock summer concerts with $5,000 and have listed $9,000 to be paid for the Golf Fly-In weekend that will promote the Bremerton Airport.

The budget discussions began last month when the commissioners reviewed capital expenditures. That led them to ask for an inventory of vehicles owned by the port. Thomson said commissioners were given that report last week. There was no further discussion at this week’s meeting on vehicles and whether the commissioners will approve the purchase of a minivan at $20,000, a small pickup truck at $19,000 and a larger pickup truck at $25,000 with a snow plow. Also on the list to be purchased is an articulating lift at $40,000.

Swanson said additional budget figures on the maintenance and operating side will be presented at the next meeting. A final budget is expected to be approved in November.

One matter that got some discussion Tuesday was the cost of a consultant for the Bremerton Marina. The port had a contract with Bob Wise of the Marsh Anderson Company, Bainbridge Island, for five months of this year. It ended in September. In all, $45,000 was paid top Wise and isn’t reflected in the 2013 budget, Swanson said, because it wasn’t budgeted when commissioners approved the 2013 budget. She said that amount will bring up the 2013 expenditure level some, and hence, the proposed 2014 budget won’t be 22 percent larger than 2013.

On that matter, the draft budget for 2014 lists $15,300 for marketing the Bremerton Marina in 2014. It is expected that work will be done by Wise. However, a contract extension with Wise was not approved Tuesday.

Thomson said he is still in negotiations with Wise to continue working with the port throughout 2013 and on into 2014. He expects commissioners to review that contract at their next meeting.

During that time Wise has been under contract with the port, he has increased the number of tenants at the marina and market the marina in a variety of ways including participation in National Marina Day, and by hosting informational booths at boat shows.

Previously port commissioners were pleased with his work which cost $9,000 a month and wanted to extend his contract but could not do that without putting it out for competitive bid.

By port regulation, any expenditure more than $50,000 has to be advertised for competitive bid. Wise’s previous work came in under that amount ($45,000) and hence, the port made that agreement without a public bid.

Commissioners said, however, that an extension of the marina consulting work needed a bid process, which was accomplished through the request for statement of qualifications.

Thomson said that statement was mailed to 28 companies and only two bid the work. He said staff chose Wise as the most qualified and began negotiations with him to stay on.

Commissioners also met in a closed door session with the port’s attorney and retired businessman James Carmichael to begin reviewing resumes for the CEO position that comes open in December.


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