Port of Skagit OKs budget with 2 cent property tax hike

By Mark Stayton, November 19, 2014, Go Skagit

Port of Skagit commissioners approved a 2015 budget and a property tax increase at a special meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The property tax will increase by 2 cents per $1,000 assessed value to 23 cents per $1,000 assessed value, raising taxes from $63 a year to $69 a year on a $300,000 home.

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The additional taxes will bring in $2,050,000 to support both an airport runway safety project and infrastructure improvements to help economic growth, said Executive Director Patsy Martin.

Revenues for the operating budget increased 2.92 percent from 2014 to $5.26 million while expenses increased 2.9 percent to $4.82 million.

“Revenues above expenses are a good thing,” said Port Commissioner Steven Omdal. “We’re making money, and that’s a good thing.”

Port spokesman Carl Molesworth said money raised through property taxes is not used for operations.

Molesworth said the bump in operating revenues represents rate increases for T-hangar rent and tie-down parking for planes at the Skagit Regional Airport, as well as increases for in-water and dry moorage at the La Conner Marina.

Sara Young, port director of planning and facilities, said a market analysis showed the port lagging behind in regular hangar rates compared to other regional airports. A 3 percent raise will apply to normal hangars, and a 5 percent increase will be applied to new, premium hangars.

Marina moorage rates were lower than regional market averages and will be raised 3 percent, said Finance Director Kristin Garcia.

Of the more than $2 million raised by taxes, Martin said $217,000 will go toward a 10 percent match for a nearly $3 million Federal Aviation Administration grant to improve runway safety.

Martin said the project will fill in a wetland near the end of one of the airport’s runways, where birds congregate and can endanger airplanes.

“It is dangerous to allow these birds to stay there, especially as we increase our jet traffic,” Martin said.

The removal of wetlands will be mitigated, she said.

Revenues from taxes will also go toward building infrastructure for economic growth, such as a proposed Food Lab at the port’s Bayview Business Park in coordination with Washington State University.

Salaries and wage expenses will be up $113,473 from 2014. Garcia said a new full-time position will be added at the marina, and all staff will receive a 2 percent cost of living raise.

Aside from the runway project, just over $3 million was included in the budget for dredging the south basin of the marina.

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