Budget-cutters' ax poised over port Port director says orders on cuts will go out this week.

September 04, 1991|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Evening Sun Staff

Maryland Port Director Adrian Teel, determined to steer the deficit-plagued Port of Baltimore into the black by next fiscal year, says he plans to announce the first of his budget-slashing strategies this week.

Teel disclosed his intentions yesterday following a meeting of the Maryland Port Commission, whose members were told the port had a loss of $2.8 million in the 1991 fiscal 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 port commission, which oversees the Maryland Port Administration.

Although the deficit was about $600,000 less than expected, it was still twice as much as last year's, and marked the third consecutive year the port has lost money. The port lost $1.4 million in fiscal year 1990, and $3.9 million in 1989.

The financial statement could have been worse for fiscal 1991, which ended June 30. The port had projected expenses of $43.6 million. But by putting in place a hiring freeze, renegotiating insurance contracts and suspending non-market-related travel, the port saved $4 million, said G. Gregory Russell, director of finance.

Port budget analysts have said that this fiscal year could end next June with a $5.5 million deficit. Teel said he is determined to reduce that amount and to break even the following year. However, he would not provide details.

A joint panel of the state Senate and House of Delegates recently called for cutting the port's budget by $2.5 million. The panel's suggestions toward reaching that goal included ending the port's funding of the Pride of Baltimore and closing its out-of-state marketing offices.

The panel also called for cuts in the port administration staff, more selective spending on development, and exploring new uses for land previously set aside for maritime uses.

Lawmakers also suggested moving much of the port administration hierarchy out of its posh offices at the World Trade Center, which the agency developed.

Before 1989, the agency was self-supporting, generating more money in fees from users than it paid out. But a drop in cargo tonnage, and discounts offered to keep the remaining business, have eaten into port finances.

Russell attributed the deficit primarily to a $3.4 million shortfall in expected revenues.

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

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