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Property owners will pay more in taxes to the Port of Olympia in 2018

The Port of Olympia commission voted 2-1 Monday night to approve a higher property tax levy for 2018. That increase will cover some planned spending by the port next year, but not all of it.
The Port of Olympia commission voted 2-1 Monday night to approve a higher property tax levy for 2018. That increase will cover some planned spending by the port next year, but not all of it. rboone@theolympian.com

The Port of Olympia commission voted 2-1 Monday night to approve three things tied to next year’s budget, including a higher property tax levy.

But the tax rate the commission approved won’t pay for all of the proposed projects the port is considering.

Those with a home valued at $262,000 — the typical property owner used by the port — will pay $51.27 a year to the port in 2018, compared to $45.36 this year. That’s based on a 19-cent-per-$1,000 property tax rate.

In addition to the levy, the commission approved its budget, capital investment plan and user rates and fees for next year.

Commissioner E.J. Zita voted against all three budget-related items, including the tax hike, and repeatedly argued that the port didn’t need to buy two log loaders for the marine terminal at a cost of $1.8 million.

If the port took a pass on those purchases, the port would have more money to spend elsewhere and wouldn’t have to raise taxes, she said. Or the log loaders could be funded by user rates and fees.

“They should be funded by the (marine terminal) businesses that benefit from their purchase,” Zita said.

Here’s what the port commission was faced with before Monday’s vote:

▪ The port’s 2018 budget didn’t expect enough revenue from operations to cover the $700,000 needed to fund the existing harbor patrol, a sea-level rise study and Thurston Economic Development Council. Among the proposed spending also was a first-year investment in the Tumwater Craft Brewing and Distilling Center.

▪ To cover that planned spending with taxes, the port commission would have to raise the property tax levy by the value of new construction, the 1 percent increase allowed by state law, plus dip into its “banked” tax levy capacity and increase the tax rate by 4 cents.

▪ Following all of the above would increase the levy to 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed value next year.

▪ The port hasn’t increased its property tax levy by 1 percent in years, which meant they have the banked capacity to raise the tax rate that much.

McGregor supported increasing the levy by 4 cents because it “allows us to continue to do those other things in the community.”

Zita countered that the port should only take the value of new construction and not increase the levy.

Downing wasn’t happy with the 4-cent rate hike, but finally voiced support for a 3-cent increase. McGregor changed his mind and agreed with Downing. They finally voted to approve the levy at 19 cents per $1,000.

The port will have to determine what gets cut at a later date.

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