Port Royal starts to discuss 2014 budget

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMay 2, 2013 

The 2014 fiscal year begins July 1, and the Port Royal Town Council discussed the legislative, court and administrative budgets during a workshop this week.

A 2-percent cost-of-living increase for all employees is included in a budget draft, to offset an anticipated 1.7-percent cost-of-living adjustment from the Social Security Administration.

"It's not overwhelmingly significant, but also not insignificant, and after we look over all department budgets we can make a decision," said town manager Van Willis.

The budget also allows for a 15-percent increase in the cost of health insurance and a 7-percent rise in dental insurance. The former could be scaled back, however, as recent estimates indicate health care cost might rise only about 11.5 percent, Willis said.

"The reality is we budget about that much in every year," he said. "It might seem like there's an impact from the Affordable Care Act, but that's kind of the reality we live in."

The budget would add a part-time security officer for the courts, at a cost of about $10,000 a year. That hire would help reduce police overtime costs, Chief Alan Beach said. Willis did not include a request for a $16,000 X-ray parcel scanner in the draft budget.

"I don't want to say it seems like overkill, but I think we can handle the volume of people we are seeing," he said.

The draft allocates an additional $15,000 to $30,000 to accommodate estimated costs associated with the town's form-based code.

The biggest unknown, however, is with the shrimp dock.

The dock has been a money-loser in recent years. In both 2011 and 2012, $225,000 was allocated so it could continue to be open for shrimp, swordfish and other seafood fishermen. But in 2011, the actual cost was $347,655; and as of April 15, this year's cost was $244,829. Few boats go out to shrimp, and even fewer pay dock fees, according to Willis.

"Our biggest issue is the boats we have don't move," he said. "... If everybody paid rent, we'd break even, which is all we've ever wanted to do."

Millenarian Trading Co. has discussed opening a plant to process jellyfish and other seafood in the area and use the docks as the intake point. An agreement might stem the town's losses.

"It's been realized there's an opportunity to maybe garner some revenue through this arrangement, if some of our shrimpers choose to use the facility," Willis said. "But what I've found out is our shrimpers don't want to do that. They want to shrimp and that's it."

Without Millenarian's help, the town must consider hiring someone to manage the dock and how it could pay for about $50,000 in needed repairs and improvements.

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