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Port Royal approves $4.88 million budget with no tax increase, ends operation of shrimp docks

David Lee, of Port Royal, checks a trap along  the Port Royal Shrimp Dock on April, 29, 2014.
David Lee, of Port Royal, checks a trap along the Port Royal Shrimp Dock on April, 29, 2014. Staff photo

On the same night it voted to end operations at the Port Royal Shrimp Docks, Port Royal Town Council approved a $4.88 million budget that requires no tax increase and provides only minimal funding for the docks.

The 2015 budget -- which cuts spending by $72,000 compared to the 2014 spending plan -- won unanimous approval.

The town leases the docks from the S.C. State Ports Authority, and operations have been a financial drain on the town for years. Losses this year could reach $200,000 because the town spent money to improve the facility and purchase equipment, town manager Van Willis has said.

While out-of-state boats have begun offloading shrimp and purchasing fuel and ice at the docks during the last few weeks, it's not enough to offset this year's deficit, Willis said.

The 2015 budget provides $25,000 for the docks. That money will be used for maintenance and insurance costs, Wliis said. , He said he has talked with private operators about subleasing the docks. He provided no details of those talks.

Ending dock operations frees up money in the budget including $40,000 for advertising and about $60,000 for a police officer and equipment.

"We gave the town manager instructions to balance the budget without any tax increase," Mayor Sam Murray said. "... I'm sure all the department heads didn't get everything they wanted, but they got enough to operate next year, and we also get the extra officer on the street, which is important."

Police chief Alan Beach has been asking for an additional patrol officer for two years. When at full staff, the department will have 22 members.

"It's going to add more officer presence," Beach said. "Everyone is going to feel safer and we will hopefully be able to add a better response time," he said.

Employees are also getting a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase, which will cost the town about $85,000, Willis said.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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