Deficit at port less than expected Decrease in cargo is blamed for $2.8 million deficit.

September 03, 1991|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Evening Sun Staff

The Maryland Port Administration completed the 1991 fiscal year with a deficit of $2.8 million -- about $600,000 less than expected, but still twice as much as last year.

"The bad news is we're going broke. The good news is we're going broke slowly," O. James Lighthizer, secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, told the Maryland Port Commission today.

The 1991 deficit marks the third year the port finished the year in the red. Last year the deficit was $1.4 million. In 1989, the deficit was $3.9 million, according to G. Gregory Russell, director of finance, who helped brief members of the commission, which oversees the Port of Baltimore.

Although the port spent less money than projected, the deficit for the year ending June 30, 1991, was primarily caused by a $3.4 million shortfall of revenues, Russell said.

The drop in revenues was caused by a decrease in containerized cargo and the delayed start-up of the Seagirt Marine Terminal, Russell said.

The billable tonnage of cargo moving through the port was 2 percent below budget projections. The lower-than-expected container cargo was not offset by increases in shipments of steel, lumber, metals and molasses.

Another cost during the 1991 fiscal year was the port's payment of $3.5 million to the Maryland Transportation Authority as debt service on its investment in Seagirt, which cost $220 million to build.

By putting into effect a hiring freeze, renegotiating insurance contracts and suspending non-market related travel, expenses were kept lower than projected in the budget. The budget provided for expenses of $43.6 million, but $39.7 million was spent.

Port officials have projected a $5.5 million deficit in the fiscal year that ends next June 30, but Port Director Adrian Teel has pledged to lower the deficit below that amount by initiating a series of cuts. Teel said he has set a goal for the port to break even in the next fiscal year.

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