Port of Houston: Revenues Up, Expenses Down (USA)

Revenues Up, Expenses Down

The Port Authority’s Second Quarter Budget Reforecast paints a positive picture, Executive Director Len Waterworth reported at yesterday’s meeting of the Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority.

The bottom line is that revenues have increased by more than $11 million or 5 percent, compared to the original budget forecast,” Waterworth said. “And expenses have been reduced by 3 percent to $5.9 million.”

In other matters, the Port of Houston Authority’s restated retirement plan has made significant growth and its assets now exceed $100 million, Controller Maxine Buckles reported. Texas public retirement systems with total assets of at least $100 million require an actuarial audit, which has been completed, she explained.

No outstanding issues were found in the audit done by Gabriel, Roeder & Smith (GRS), according to Ryan Falla of GRS, who addressed the Port Commission. The audit involved independent verification and analysis of the assumptions, procedures, methods and conclusions used by Milliman, the retained actuary for the Port Authority.

The Port Authority’s plan is entirely funded by operating revenues, and its fiscal soundness places it among the top 10 pension funds in the state. No taxpayer funds are used to pay Port Authority employee pensions.

During the meeting, both Waterworth and Port Commission Chairman Jim Edmonds discussed the ongoing review of the Port Authority by the Sunset Advisory Commission. Edmonds commended the professionalism of Sunset and Port Authority staff, noting the review was a win-win exercise. He said, “The port will be a better institution for it as we look toward the next 100 years.”

Government Relations Director Spencer Chambers, who noted that the review has been an organization-wide process, outlined the next steps, including a public hearing in Austin on September 5 involving the Port Authority and several other public agencies, and adoption of a final set of recommendation by the Sunset Commission on November 13-14. Recommendations that require a change in state law will be considered by the Texas Legislature during its next regular session beginning in 2013.

Public comments are still being solicited by the Sunset Commission, Chambers said.

Waterworth also gave a brief update on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit process to deepen and widen the Bayport Channel. He said the Port Authority was on track to complete the process by the end of the year or early next year, pending no unforeseen circumstances.

At a special August 15 meeting, in response to community comments, the Port Commission agreed to eliminate a dredged material placement option to create a beneficial use marsh in Galveston Bay.

Tom Heidt, Vice President, Finance & Administration, introduced Michael Bartolotta, Vice Chairman of First Southwest Company, who gave an update on efforts to identify options for alternative financing of the Port Authority’s capital improvement needs for the next 10 to 15 years.

In Waterworth’s monthly financial report, he said total tonnage at Port Authority facilities (excluding bulk cargo associated with leased locations) was up 339,000 tons or 16 percent for the month of July compared to last year, while year-to-date tonnage continues to show solid growth of 1.6 million tons or 10 percent.

For the month of July, steel tonnage was up slightly by 26,000 tons or 6 percent, with import steel showing growth of 73,000 tons or 20 percent. Export steel declined compared to last year, when Port Authority exports were unusually high, and included steel unable to cross the damaged docks of a local private terminal.

“Year to date we have experienced an increase of 1.2 million tons or 50 percent in our steel tonnages,” Waterworth said. “However, growth is expected to flatten for the remainder of the year. Bottom line up front, continued strong performance for the port.”

Other general cargo at Port Authority facilities (bulk product, bagged goods, wind power equipment, etc.) continues to show growth of 247,000 tons, or 12 percent for the year.

Container units for July grew by 22,000 or 26 percent. while year-to-date units are up 8,000 or 1 percent.

Overall July operating revenues were $19.4 million, up by 17 percent over last year, given growth in container tonnage combined with fees from dredge disposal, and year-to-date revenues increased 10 percent.

We are having a very good year,” Waterworth said. “While steel is flattening slightly, containers are picking up.”

Following an Executive Session, in response to a recommendation from the staff of the Sunset Advisory Commission, the Port Commission agreed to modify the Port Authority’s Special Counsel and Litigation Counsel functions.


Press Release, August 29, 2012