Port of Port Angeles rejects proposed tax increase

PORT ANGELES — The Port of Port Angeles on Monday unanimously rejected a proposed property tax rate increase of 1.87 percent, which would have equated to a 74-cent increase in property taxes for the owner of property assessed at $200,000.

The current tax rate is roughly 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The tax increase would have provided about $27,000 more for the port.

Instead, the port agreed to bank 0.953 percent, which can be applied to future levies.

It is the fifth year since 2009 the port banked the annual 1 percent increase, rather than levying it.

Commissioner Connie Beauvais said during the public hearing Monday she had received two emails from people who opposed the tax increase and had heard from numerous others on the west end of Clallam County who did not want the increase.

“I told them that unless I heard from the public that they were in favor of the tax increase, my position is I would vote no,” she said. “My ears were open to anyone who wanted to provide comment to the contrary.”

Over the past month, Beauvais had told the other port commissioners she opposed the increase, particularly because the community already fails to pass school bonds and levies.

Commissioner Colleen McAleer said she had heard a variety of opinions about the tax increase, but not that many.

The property taxes are used for payment of debt service, funding new construction and for the Community Partner Program.

Property taxes do not pay port salaries, McAleer said.

The 2017 budget includes debt service of $691,496, capital project funds of $9.4 million and $65,000 for the Community Partner Program.

McAleer said the port needs to continue investing and improving the local economy but questioned if the public would be comfortable with the tax increase.

“We are on an incredible path that I’m really proud of, but does the public know it and do they believe in it?” she asked.

Like McAleer, Commissioner Steve Burke also wished more people had commented. Only one member of the public commented during the port’s meeting.

Jeff Bowman of Port Angeles lauded the commissioners for their discussion of the tax over the past month, adding the size of a proposed property tax increase is irrelevant when it comes to the public’s sentiment about their taxes.

Bowman, who sits on the steering committee for Port Angeles Citizens for Education, said PACE is looking to sponsor ongoing dialogue with all the taxation districts in Clallam County.

“From a county of 72,000 people, we’re not getting a good sample rate for having any confidence in what our county would do,” Burke said. “I was really hoping people would come today.”

Burke said what many people might not realize is how small of a portion of their property taxes go toward the Port of Port Angeles.

He said about half a cent for every $1 of property taxes in the county goes toward the port.

“It’s a difficult issue and I wish more people would have come,” he said. “I want people to have confidence in us that we are spending their money wisely.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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