Biloxi Port Commission Bailing

The Biloxi Port Commission is $600,000 dollars in the hole and the commission president says there's no way to recoup.

"The county won't give us our full mil back that we had had for 20 something' years. They've cut us back to like, I think, point 6-7 - which represents around a million dollars. And that cost us about $400,000 a year in revenues."

Lesso says without that money, trying to maintain four harbors and two boat launches is draining the commission's budget.

"We can't get out of this mess and we would really like to see one or the other take us over, either the county or the City of Biloxi," Lesso said.

Most likely it will be the city. Council members heard a partial report prepared by the Stennis Institute of Government. The institute's Marty Wiseman told the council a partnership between the port and the city would mean the commissioners staying on as advisors, with the city in charge.

"The decision making ability on a day to day basis or the management of the port commission would rest with the city," Wiseman said.

The mayor reminded the council that the city has some financial responsibility for the commission, namely the more than two million dollars in bonds that paid for the port commission's new office.

"We don't pay the debt service on the bonds, but if they were to default it would go back on the city's credit rating and the county's. So we do have a lot of responsibility even though it's not in the operation and maintenance and day to day operation," Mayor A.J. Holloway said.

Council members say they need a lot more information before voting. The legislature must formally sign off on the deal. The mayor says he would like to see the city take over running the commission by October 1, the same time the commission runs out of money.

Harrison County District 1 Supervisor Bobby Eleuterius takes exception to Lesso's comment that the county isn't giving the commission enough money. Eleuterius says the supervisors have never cut the commission's funding.

He says the commission is getting less millage but the same amount of money. And Eleuterius says by law the county can only increase the commission's millage by ten percent each year.