PORT TOWNSEND — Port of Port Townsend officials expect to begin collecting the $15 million multi-year levy in January, but commissioners want to hold off on the first capital projects until 2021.
All three commissioners praised Jefferson County voters, who were approving the port’s Industrial Development District (IDD) levy with more than 54 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s latest ballot counts.
About 1,000 ballots still need to be counted, with updated totals expected at 4 p.m. today, the county auditor’s office said.
The levy, which needs a simple majority to pass, can be collected for up to 20 years.
“I have to say the work that staff has done in recent months to get our net profitability up and cut costs and all of those things that staff has been executing on really made it a lot easier to go out and talk to people about how trustworthy an investment in the port is,” said Bill Putney, commission chair.
“I never really had a hope that this IDD would pass. I’m very gratified the community has seen fit to do this for us. I feel a heavy responsibility to perform on it.”
The port previously prepared a list of capital investment needs that totals about $14.6 million.
Some of the top items include $7.5 million to rehabilitate and re-build the north and south Point Hudson jetties, and about $700,000 for three separate projects at the Herb Beck Quilcene Marina, which would include dredging the entrance, repairing buildings and rebuilding the boat ramp.
By law, commissioners didn’t need voter approval for the IDD levy, but a petition circulated by a citizens’ group, the Committee for Port Accountability, gathered enough signatures to put it on the November ballot.
Commissioners passed a resolution unanimously on Wednesday to collect a total of $809,354 for the IDD levy in 2020, with an estimated rate of $0.13 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
“In fairness, it’s the least amount we can propose per year and still get the [total] amount of money for the levy,” commissioner Steve Tucker said. “I’ve been a proponent that we continue things on a predictable basis without having any big jumps.”
Jim Pivarnik, the port’s interim executive director, suggested commissioners place the levy funds into a new restricted account, although the port will not see any of the money until after county property tax bills are due in April.
“That certainly isn’t a lot of funds to do anything now,” Pivarnik said.
The port’s regular property tax levy was approved for a 1 percent increase for a total of just more than $1 million on Wednesday.
Commissioners also formalized the port’s 2020 operating and capital budgets, and they approved new leases separately for the Artful Sailor and Key City Fish, both of which operate on port property.
Yet they were still abuzz about the likely passage of the IDD levy.
Pivarnik said ports statewide have been able to execute that type of a levy since the 1960s, but this may be the first to ever receive voter approval.
“I’m amazed and glad that the community chose to trust the port enough to approve that IDD,” Tucker said.
Commissioner Pete Hanke said the port should continue to assess its property and consider surplussing in areas where it makes sense.
“Over the course of 20 years, it isn’t a lot of money in terms of our operations and our budget and what we’re responsible for,” he said.
“I think it’s a relevant discussion because it definitely leverages those IDD funds a lot further down the road.”
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].