OLYMPIA - An increase in shipping and tight control of expenses helped the Port of Olympia boost its revenue to $8 million in 2010, according to year-end financial data released by the port.
Overall port revenue for the year rose to $8.06 million from $7.95 million in 2009, in part because of more revenue generated by the marine terminal. Marine terminal revenue rose to $2.64 million last year from $2.44 million in 2009.
That increase in marine terminal revenue can largely be tied to log exports and the port’s two largest tenants: Federal Way-based timber company Weyerhaeuser and Pacific Lumber & Shipping, a division of the Port Blakely Companies of Seattle. Twenty-two ships called on the port in 2010, up from 14 in 2009, according to the port. The port expects more marine terminal business this year and expects $3 million in revenue from that unit of its business for 2011, port finance director Kevin Ferguson said. Two ships have visited the port this month, including the Laser Ace, which was expected to arrive Wednesday evening. Four ships are expected in May, Ferguson said.
The state Auditor’s Office will release its annual report on the port’s finances for 2010 in October, spokeswoman Mindy Chambers said. The port’s unaudited results are subject to slight changes once the auditor’s office reviews them, Ferguson said.
Ferguson said he keeps a watchful eye on the port’s expenses and that out of a stack of invoices, he’ll regularly have questions about a dozen or so, wanting to know how the port might save more money.
MARINE TERMINAL LEADS THE WAY
Of the port’s four main business units – Olympia Regional Airport, Swantown Marina & Boatworks, the marine terminal, and the port’s peninsula properties – the marine terminal led the way with $2.64 million in revenue, followed by the marina and boatworks at $2.48 million, the airport at $2.3 million and the peninsula properties at $627,222.
Although revenue grew at the marine terminal from 2009, the port had projected slightly higher revenue for 2010 based on receiving a shipment of garnet. But Ferguson said the port did not receive the garnet, a gritty substance used in industrial applications.
In addition to its four main business units, the port also received $3.42 million in state and federal grants and $4.56 million in property tax revenue for 2010. The port’s property tax levy was 15.7 cents per $1,000 of assessed value last year and 14.9 cents in 2009, Ferguson said.
Washington state is home to 75 port districts, nearly all of which levy property taxes, said Eric Johnson, executive director of the Washington Public Ports Association. One of the few ports that does not is the Port of Kalama on the Columbia River, partly because its tenants generate a large enough revenue stream and its tax base is too small, Johnson said.
Port districts are allowed by law to collect up to 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
Ferguson emphasized that property taxes collected by the Port of Olympia are not used to pay for the port’s day-to-day operations, such as for port staff salaries, but are strictly used for environmental cleanup and for capital investments, such as the debt service required on the port’s bonds.
TERMINAL 'DOES NOT HAVE TO PAY ITS WAY'
Still, some in the community take issue with how the taxes are used, including former port commissioner Sam Bradley, who outlined his concerns in a letter to The Olympian, published April 15.
“Allocating taxes exclusively to capital projects lets port operations off the hook from paying their self-generated cleanup and infrastructure needs,” Bradley wrote. “For instance, having the taxpayers pay for marine terminal cleanup means the marine terminal as a business entity does not have to pay its way.”
Ferguson said he welcomes feedback about the port’s finances, but also said it’s important to look at the port’s overall financial picture, rather than single out certain operations.
For 2010, based on the port’s revenue, grant funds, property taxes and depreciation, the port showed total income of $6.55 million, according to its summary statement of all revenue and expenses.