As many as 46 people could lose their jobs at the Port of Baltimore as the Maryland Port Administration seeks to streamline its operations and cut expenses.
MPA director Adrian Teel yesterday announced plans to eliminate 72 positions, some of which are vacant, in an attempt to control a budget deficit that has plagued the port for three straight years.
Teel said the reorganization and staff reductions will save about $3.1 million a year, and should reduce the projected deficit by about half that amount by next June.
Analysts had projected a $5.5 million deficit in the current fiscal year. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the port had a deficit of $2.8 million.
To cut expenses, Teel said, he will consider reducing the port's contribution to the Pride of Baltimore, the state's goodwill ship, and the Maryland International Division, which oversees the state's trade efforts.
Another option is cutting $155,000 for harbor cleanup by placing that item in the budget of another state agency.
"If we're going to be held accountable for breaking even, we have to look at whether we're benefiting from the expenses," he said.
In addition, Teel said, efforts will be made to improve revenues by working to increase cargo shipments through the port and exploring money-making alternatives for land the port owns but does not use.
Another savings possibility is moving some offices from the World Trade Center in downtown Baltimore, providing space that could be leased to bring income to the port. Relocating the offices to Point Breeze would make port operations more efficient by placing managers closer to their staffs, Teel said.
Teel said he might reduce the $100,000 donation the MPA gives the Pride of Baltimore, but probably would not cut it altogether because of the Pride's public relations work that benefits the port.
Linda Jordan, executive director of the Pride, said the port's donations are an integral part of the Pride's $600,000 budget, although the port's contribution has declined in recent years. Three years ago, the MPA gave the Pride $250,000. It had promised to give $150,000 in the last fiscal year, ending June 30, but instead gave $100,000. The MPA was to give another $150,000 in the current fiscal year, but Jordan said she had expected it would be less.
The job cuts are to take effect Oct. 31. Teel said he has asked his managers to review their staffing levels and make recommendations by Sept. 20 on which positions to cut. Teel said he is seeking a 15 percent work-force reduction at all levels.
Currently, the MPA has 467 budgeted positions but 36 of these are vacant. Teel said 10 of the positions would have to be filled because they are in critical areas such as sales. The remaining positions will not be filled, but Teel said he probably still will have to lay off 46 people to meet the goals.
Teel said every effort would be made to find jobs for the employees in other areas of state government.
Joseph Cook, director of fiscal services with the Maryland Classified Employees Association, which represents workers at the MPA, said the union is worried that the reductions in staff will be based on performance rather than seniority.
Two years ago, the MPA won approval from the legislature to remove its workers from the state's personnel system and adopt its own personnel code. Under the state code, seniority is a primary consideration when staff reductions are made. Under the MPA system, the main consideration is performance.
Despite the concerns that the performance criteria are too subjective, Cook said the union will try to work with the administration to find work for the laid-off employees.