Shrimp dock, projects drain on Port Royal fund balance

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 16, 2012 

The town of Port Royal has less money in its reserves than in recent years, but officials say that's fine because they finished several long-awaited projects.

The town's fund balance dropped about $317,000 during fiscal year 2010-11, leaving a little less than $2.6 million when the year ended June 30, according to the annual audit presented Wednesday to the Town Council.

Officials had been squirreling away money for years to pay for major projects, town manager Van Willis said, and the slow economy made last year an ideal time to advance them.

"We did spend a lot of money last year -- there's no doubt about that -- but in a down economy there were a lot of good opportunities for savings on contracts," Willis said.

The spending included more than $481,000 in projects in a special tax district downtown, which has its own revenue stream. That includes construction to make the Cypress Wetlands more accessible to the public.

"After this year, you won't be collecting any more revenue in that fund, and you have to spend that money or it will be gone," said Lisa Wechsler of Crowley, Wechsler & Associates LLC, which prepared the audit. The fund contained $728,790 as of June 30.

The town lost $60,000 to $70,000 running the 11th Street shrimp dock, which it leases from the State Ports Authority, Willis said.

The dock has been losing money since the town took it over four years ago -- including $20,000 the previous fiscal year -- but the loss jumped last year because of necessary repairs, Willis said. The town also had trouble collecting $300 monthly docking fees.

Port Royal leases the dock for six months at a time and continues to run it despite the loss because that's what the community wants, Willis said. If the pending sale of the port to a developer goes through, the town will own the dock and will then make improvements and contract out operations.

"We're not doing anything while we have six-month agreements," he said, because it is too short a time frame for potential contractors or for the town to make improvements.

Port Royal's financial position is stable, Wechsler summarized.

"There is no reason to be alarmed because of the decreases in funds this year," she said.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnPortRoyal.

Related content:

Port Royal OKs five-year extension of Trask agreement, Jan. 11, 2012

Port Royal losing money on shrimp dock operation, March 30, 2011

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