Port of Umatilla commissioners Tuesday adopted a $24.3 million budget for next year that includes $20.6 million in federal grant funds for capital improvements.

Kim Puzey, the port's general manager, has pushed for a model of "short-sea shipping" that would emphasize regional shipping from Umatilla to Washington's Puget Sound and other West Coast ports. The plan would take some burden off highways.

The port has applied for more than $20 million in federal funds, hoping to pay for a 400-foot wide dock extension to accommodate larger barges and make short sea shipping possible. The port also hopes to acquire a second crane capable of efficiently loading ocean-going barges.

"This short sea shipping initiative could precipitate a transportation mode shift that would revolutionize shipping from our region," Puzey said in his May budget message.

It would give customers more options, he added Tuesday.

Although he realizes the funding might not materialize, Puzey continues to gather support letters to build the port's case and put it in the best position possible.

In the proposed budget, the port's tax-supported general fund is down 45 percent next year to $1.4 million. This is a result of transfers to other special funds.

Puzey said the port commission needed to transfer money into other funds so the port could begin the year with a zero beginning fund balance.

"The fact of the matter is that the Dock Fund and Marina Fund always run at deficits and we wanted to stop carrying negative beginning fund balances," he said.

The commission has cut personal services $50,000 to just shy of $200,000. All other general fund categories are down from this year. The Budget Committee cut the contingency fund by a third to $100,000 from this year's adopted budget.

While the taxes the port will levy are up just $5,825 from this year, commissioners have budgeted $20.6 million from grants and other appropriations to pay for the proposed dock extension. That's up from $7.2 million in the current year's capital outlay fund.

The tax rate is 15.39 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That means the owner of a $100,000 property would pay $15.39 this year to support the port's operations. The 15-cent tax rate is permanent.

Commissioners Tuesday also adopted a supplemental budget for this year that increased the tax-supported general fund $175,363 to $2,540,652.

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