Port commission approves budget

It maintains services without a property tax increase or staffing and service cutbacks faced by other local government agencies.

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WALLA WALLA -- Port of Walla Walla commissioners have adopted a roughly $12 million budget for Port and airport operations for 2011.

Described by Port Executive Director Jim Kuntz as "barebones," the budget is about $2 million more than the economic development agency started with this year and maintains services without a property tax increase or staffing and service cutbacks faced by other local government agencies.

Although hit with challenges from the recession, the Port's operations and 131/2 positions have not been affected the same as the city's and county's because the agency's funding sources are slightly different, Kuntz said. About 20 to 22 percent of the budget comes from property taxes, while the rest comes from its tenant leases and utility enterprises.

"We have pretty good revenue diversification," Kuntz said. "We do not rely on nor is sales tax really a source of revenue for the Port. That takes away a little bit of the up-and-down revenue patterns."

The 2011 budget was adopted for the Port and Walla Walla Regional Airport last week after a daylong retreat. But commissioners revisited the budget Thursday night during the Port's regular meeting.

As part of the process, commissioners Thursday approved a 11/2 percent salary increase for Kuntz, who will make $134,726 next year. The 2011 budget also includes $25,000 in deferred compensation for Kuntz to receive in whole if he stays through the end of next year.

Under Kuntz's managerial resolution with the Port, he establishes other employee salaries and said increases have been budgeted for 2011.

The agency's $11,760,829 final budget breaks down to about $7.5 million for the Port and $4.3 million for the airport. The two operate separate ledgers.

Kuntz said cash reserves are up slightly because of property sales. The Port was recently reimbursed by Key Technology over a land purchase from a couple of years ago. The Port also received money from the Washington state Department of Transportation for land related to construction of the Burbank interchange.

Kuntz said capital projects are still on the horizon for the agency, though the work is scaled back from some of the agency's bigger undertakings in the past. Burbank is expected to be a major focus of investment.

The Port has budgeted $170,000 for water and sewer casings anticipated with construction of the interchange. The infrastructure is part of a strategic plan for future hookups and utility service.

Meanwhile, Port officials expect to continue talks with the city of Pasco over a possible contract for sewer service. Kuntz said $100,000 has been set aside for 2011 for design and permitting for a sewer transmission line -- all pending negotiations and an agreement with Pasco.

Plans are also in the works for $120,000 in improvements related to Burbank tenant Cascade Pallet. Those include water line and hydrant improvements and a parking lot. Another $60,000 is also in the works for a fire sprinkler system at juice manufacturer Cott, which was previously known as Cliffstar Corporation.

On the airport side, Kuntz said reserves are expected to be drawn down to help with the $370,000 construction related to Reiff Manufacturing.

The Port has also budgeted $30,000 next year for an election planned later in 2011.

Commissioners plan to also bring back their community tours of Port properties. That $5,000 cost helps pay to take interested community members on daylong tours of the Port properties from Walla Walla to Burbank.

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