Port of Longview Considering Property Tax Hike for Facility Upgrades

By Erik Olson, November 26, 2013, Daily NewsTop of Form

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By ByDespite years of record revenue, Port of Longview officials say they are considering doubling property-taxes to raise money for maintenance costs.

Port commissioners on Tuesday will consider whether to raise the tax levy from 23 cents to 45 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation. Commissioners had dropped the rate two years ago and are seeking to restore it to the state-allowed maximum.

For a house worth $150,000, the port’s property tax would increase $33 — from $34.50 to $67.50 — next year.

Port officials said the tax revenue would be reserved strictly for redevelopment and upgrading aging equipment and buildings. The money would not be used for operating costs, such as salaries for employees, port officials said.

“This is being used to build new docks so that we can attract new businesses to the area,” port CEO Geir Kalhagen said Monday.

The property tax hike will be considered as part of the port’s $34.5 million budget for 2014. Port commissioners will discuss the plan 1 p.m. today at the port office.

The Port of Longview collected a $33.8 million last year in total revenue, a 20 percent jump from 2011 and the fifth consecutive record year. Booming log and grain exports from the port docks and the EGT grain terminal are responsible for the big haul.

Port commissioners voted in 2011 to cut the property-tax levy in half, to 23 cents per $1,000. At the time, they said they would pay for capital expenses out of existing revenues.

However, port officials said expenses have risen along with revenue, which left about $4.5 million last year in operating margin (profit in the private sector). Without additional tax revenue, port officials said they would need to sell bonds to tackle multi-million dollar projects such as redeveloping an obsolete grain terminal at Berth 4 or replacing the stormwater system.

“Do you make sure you protect the assets of the port or do you let them deteriorate?” Kalhagen said.

Port officials expect the tax increase to generate an additional $1.9 million in 2014, which would be dedicated to the first phases of removing creosote pilings from the Berth 4 pier. If adopted, the port has no plans to sunset the tax increase during the next few years, Kalhagen said.

Kalhagen said the port also is cutting administrative costs 3 percent across the board in an effort to share the pain.

The port’s boundaries stretch north of Longview and include Kelso, Lexington, Castle Rock, Toutle, Silver Lake and a portion of Ryderwood.

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