Port commission approves budget for 2015

By Rolf Boone, November 24, 2014, The Olympian

The Port of Olympia commission Monday night approved the port’s 2015 budget, which projects $14.8 million in revenue, $10.6 million in operating expenses and operating income of $426,000 — the highest for the port in years.


The income figure is significant because the port is projected to generate that amount after including $3.7 million in depreciation. In past years, depreciation — a non-cash term that accounts for the declining value of port assets — typically resulted in an income deficit.


But the financial picture has improved in recent years due to the increased business at the port’s marine terminal in the form of log exports and fracking sand imports.


Once again, the marine terminal is expected to be the biggest revenue producer among the port’s various divisions next year, generating $8.3 million — up from $8 million this year and $7 million in 2013.


But there’s also a new revenue source for the port in 2015.


After spending $11.5 million to build a new stormwater treatment plant on the marine terminal, the port plans to charge customers there for its use, projecting $713,000 in revenue next year.


Here’s how the rest of the income statement for 2015 looks: Operating income of $426,000 is pulled lower by about $1 million in environmental expenses and $1.5 million in interest expenses tied to bonds. But add just under $5 million in revenue generated by a property tax levy and $812,000 in grants, and the port projects $2.9 million in net income for next year.


Rather than vote on one motion to cover all the budget-related items Monday, the commission elected to vote four separate times.


Here’s how they voted:


•  2015 tax levy: Commissioners Bill McGregor and George Barner voted for increasing total property tax collections by only the value of new construction (the port will bank the 1 percent increase for future use), while Commissioner Sue Gunn voted against it, saying she wanted to hold the line on taxes.


(The property tax levy on residents will actually will fall to about 18 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation next year, compared to about 19 cents this year because real estate continues to appreciate in value. When property values fall, property tax levy rates typically go up.)


•  2015 budget and capital investment plan: Unanimous approval.


Among the port’s capital spending next year is about $9 million to renovate nine port buildings in Tumwater known as the Tumwater Town Center. Once complete, the buildings will be put up for lease.


•  2015 user rates and fees: McGregor and Barner voted for the slight increase while Gunn voted no, fearing that the Swantown Marina and its services are becoming too expensive.


•  2015 Comprehensive Scheme of Harbor Improvements: The commissioners voted unanimously on the port’s planning document, but not until more decisive language, as requested by Gunn, was attached to the port’s strategic planning.

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