The Foss Waterway Development Authority won't hire a new executive director on its planned 2011 operating budget of $912,310.
In addition, the new budget cuts out travel and janitorial services and slahes legal costs in half.
“We’ll be emptying our own wastebaskets at work and taking the trash home to put it in our home trash cans,” said Su Dowie, the group’s interim executive director.
Dowie is expected to continue in the interim role until 2012. She replaces retired executive director Don Meyer. The authority is a municipal entity that must get its budget approved by the city.
The budget for 2011 also freezes staff pay and defers some repairs and maintenance on the authority’s portfolio of properties along the near-downtown waterway. The authority’s planned capital budget for 2011 is $880,000, for a grand total of $1.8 million.
“Our board is very aware of the need to conserve funds,” said Dowie. “This budget reflects that.”
Dowie said the austerity budget reflects the realities of the real estate marketplace. The authority in the past has depended on land sales and leasing income to finance its operation.
But the recession has put the brakes on plans to build structures on the Foss and cut interest in land acquisition on the waterway.
Tacoma-based developer Prium Co s., for instance, earlier this year dropped its plans to build a mixed-use office and residential project on the east side of the waterway near the state Route 509 bridge. The developer, who already had invested its own money in land preparation, had planned to buy that property of $2 million.
A major private condominium project on the waterway, the Esplanade, went into foreclosure last year, and plans to build two hotels on the waterway sites were delayed. Sales have recently resumed on the Esplanade, and the first of the two hotels is in the permitting process .
The authority originally had planned to replace Meyer, who retired at year’s end, with a new executive director later this year. But the financial realities of the situation caused members to delay that recruitment process.
Delaying hiring an executive director saves the authority about $140,000 a year in salary and benefits, Dowie said.
Dowie, who was the authority’s deputy director before being elevated to the interim executive director position, got a 5 percent salary increase for handling both positions. She makes $96,000.
The authority is continuing with some improvement projects, including replacement of floats on the north end of the waterway and working with the Foss Waterway Seaport to rehabilitate a former waterway warehouse into the museum’s permanent home. Much of those expenses are being funded by grants or private donations.
The authority will continue its work in preparing waterway sites for redevelopment during the lull in real estate activity, she said.
“We want to be prepared when the market comes back,” said Dowie. Though no new buyers have made offers on waterway sites, new glimmers of interest are showing, Dowie said.
“Just last week we had some signs of interest from a Southern California developer,” said Dowie. “We expect that the Pacific Northwest will be one of the first areas to emerge from the real estate slowdown.”