By Tom Hubka

WesCom News Service

BROOKINGS - The proposed 2007-08 budget for the Port of Brookings Harbor was unanimously approved with changes last week by the port's budget committee.

The committee, made up of the five port commissioners and five residents, will now send the budget to be adopted by the commission no later than June 30. The fiscal year begins July 1.

Port Commissioner Lloyd Whaley and committee members Richard Miller and Lauren Porsch were not present at the meeting.

Increased staff costs, continued debt payments and the possibility of future projects are some of the highlights in this year's budget.

Executive Director Dave Scott, acting as budget officer, told the committee the total personal services amount, which includes payroll, benefits, taxes, vacation and retirement savings, was up andquot;substantiallyandquot; from last year.

andquot;But there are some assumptions built into that figure,andquot; he said.

This year's budgeted amount of $693,593 for personal services is up roughly $23,700 from last year.

Some of the increase comes from budgeting for a current employee, port accountant Linda Calef, and her successor, Scott said.

Scott said Calef has helped the port deal with consolidating its debt and getting its financial records in order.

The committee also discussed the validity of Scott's statement that Calef was a contracted employee, though an actual document does not exist.

andquot;I would think for the safety of the port you would want some kind of contract,andquot; committee member Kelly Wilson said.

Commissioner Kathy Lindley added, andquot;I have some big concerns about that.andquot;

Scott said the Special Districts Association of Oregon considered Calef a contracted employee, but he would ask for that opinion in writing from SDAO officials.

Another increase comes from the budgeted addition of two staff members, one in the office and one in the field.

Scott later said the two new positions are only budgeted and are not finalized.

andquot;With the existing (number of) staff, we are able to limp along,andquot; Scott said. andquot;As we obtain funding for new projects, we do not have the staffing available.

andquot;This is only if we need them because of additional projects.andquot;

The proposed budget leaves the port an operating income of $438,104. Scott pointed out that amount for fiscal year 2004 was a deficit $250,416.

andquot;We have improvements that are substantial than what we've had over the past few years,andquot; he said.

The 2007-08 budget also continues the port's payment to its creditors.

The budget calls for $305,700 to be paid on interest and $362,175 on principal. The principal amount contains $300,000 the state could potentially give to the port to allow the port to pay off its loans to Chetco Federal Credit Union, Scott said. Both parties are still negotiating.

Some capital projects are also included in the proposed budget. The port has been allocated $400,000 of a $1.2 million Oregon Department of Transportation grant that will be used to repair the boardwalk and install sidewalks along Lower Harbor Road, Scott said.

A $200,000 entry for a possible seafood processing plant, a $50,000 entry for a new master plan and a $60,000 entry for dock repair would all be funded by grants in the proposed budget.

Scott said projects like the seafood processing plant may not come to fruition if they are not needed while other projects, such as the dock repair, are absolutely necessary.