PORT ANGELES — Connie Beauvais split from her two Port of Port Angeles commissioner colleagues Tuesday, voting against a 1 percent property tax increase for 2019.
Minutes later the board president joined Commissioners Colleen McAleer and Steve Burke in approving the $10.2 million spending plan for next year that the tax levy hike will help fund with $14,901 in projected revenue.
Beauvais said she had not voted for past levy increases, either.
“I don’t think it’s right for an entity just to take a fee or increase a fee or increase a tax just because they have a legal ability to do so without a specific purpose for that,” Beauvais told McAleer and Burke.
Burke said he agreed “completely” with Beauvais.
“I actually think there are specific things that this actually accomplishes,” Burke said.
“One is that it helps us in our bond rating in the future and shows them that we have the fortitude to actually do a 1 percent increase.
“They are looking for both those things.”
With the levy increase, port 2019 property tax collections will total $1.53 million.
Because of increases in assessed property valuations for 2019 tax collections, the actual levy rate per $1,000 in valuation will drop from 18 cents per $1,000 in 2018 to 17 cents per $1,000 in 2019, port Controller Melinda Smithson said.
The 2018 tax levy rate is the fourth lowest of 18 ports in the state of Washington, according to the commissioners’ 2019 budget package.
Like Beauvais, McAleer voted in past years to “bank” the port’s capacity to levy property taxes, McAleer said.
Banking that capacity allows local governments to impose less than the 1 percent allowed without a vote of the people and still lets them levy higher taxes later if necessary.
The port has banked its levy capacity for six of the past 10 years.
The port sets aside its property tax revenues solely for capital projects, debt financing and the port’s Community Partner Program.
McAleer said the $1.5 million in property tax revenues the port will begin collecting in 2019 won’t cover the estimated $48 million the port will need for capital projects — $37 million of which will come from the port, the rest from matching funds — throughout the next five years.
“We are going to have to issue bonds, and if we have not taken this 1 percent, then we are putting ourselves at an absolute disadvantage,” McAleer said.
“We will have to borrow money probably at higher interest rates.
“For those reasons, I vote yes” for the 1 percent increase as “a prudent step,” McAleer said.
Beauvais, who did not respond to Burke and McAleer’s arguments, reiterated in a later interview that voting for the hike would be doing so “just because we can.”
The time to levy the 1 percent would be “if we have to go out to get money to build a building,” Beauvais said.
“To me, that would be an appropriate time to go for a tax increase.”
Beauvais also confirmed that in 2019 she will run for re-election to her six-year, Port Angeles-West End District 3 position.
The 2019 budget shows a surplus of $857,000 and includes a $1 million dredging project for Terminal 3, boat-slip rate increases at the port’s Port Angeles and Sequim marinas, $250,000 for removing 77 Lincoln Park trees that are obstructing the flight path to William R. Fairchild International Airport, and a 3 percent wage increase for port employees.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.