PORT TOWNSEND — The Port of Port Townsend received preliminary estimates this week on key revenues to consider for its 2020 budget.
The three commissioners also are planning their approach on the industrial development district levy that will be on the November ballot following a successful citizen petition to place it before Jefferson County voters.
A first reading of the port’s budget will be held at 10 a.m. Oct. 23, a change in time based on a conflict with the Washington Public Ports Association’s Small Ports conference, which is scheduled to begin later that day in Leavenworth.
A first draft of the budget and cash flow is scheduled to be presented at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 25. It also will be posted online that day for the start of the public comment period.
The port’s public meetings are conducted at 333 Benedict St., Port Townsend.
The port’s property tax income was estimated during a special business meeting Tuesday to be about $22,000 more than 2019 at just more than $1 million, said Abigail Berg, the port’s director of finance and administration.
Berg also reported revenue projections of $1.9 million at Boat Haven and $1.8 million for the port’s yard operations, while moorage at the Herb Beck Marina in Quilcene might see a slight increase year over year, and the airport could see additional revenues.
“They’ve really been working on the airport, trying to capture revenue that hasn’t been captured before,” Port Executive Director Jim Pivarnik said. “It’s looking pretty good for ’19.”
Pivarnik specified tie-down fees and parking as two main components.
“It could be some of the best revenue we’ve seen in years,” he said.
While the numbers were preliminary and expenses were not projected Tuesday, commissioners discussed the possibility of including an annual 3 percent adjustment based on Consumer Price Index (CPI).
“I’ve been a proponent of keeping at least the CPI,” Commissioner Steve Tucker said. “The 3 percent would be useful not only for the revenue but to not have a time where you don’t have anything [to increase] and then have a time where you have to catch up.”
The port recently implemented seasonal discount rates for its boatyard, and questions from the commissioners analyzed how that might impact the budget.
Tucker also suggested the port should consider amending fees for ramp usage, particularly in Quilcene, where box trucks with commercial loads are having an impact on the physical structure.
“We want to encourage the use of annual passes more,” Pivarnik said. “We should keep it at $100 but make the daily $12 [instead of $10]. Hopefully that will encourage more people to use the pass.”
No decisions were made on the passes, but Commissioner Pete Hanke agreed with Tucker on potentially incorporating the weight of the load into the discussion.
“I think the amount of commercial use the ramp is getting is inordinate to the amount we’re collecting,” Hanke said.
While the commissioners spoke specifically about the Quilcene marina, they also said any change would need to be implemented across the board.
“If you’re a boat ramp user, you’re supposed to pay a ramp fee,” Tucker said. “I think we need to take a look at this particular use, which is commercial, and try to be equitable.”
On the levy, the port is planning to provide basic information in a four-page newsletter that typically serves as its annual report.
“It’s really to inform the community about what we’re doing, what we’re trying to do, and why it’s so important from the commissioners’ point of view,” Pivarnik said.
Commission Chair Bill Putney has been drafting language that will provide public information based on what would happen if the levy passes as well as the effects of voter rejection.
“The law requires it to be fair and objective,” said the port’s attorney, Frank Chmelik. “I think it’s a great piece. It’s exactly what the [state Public Disclosure Commission] says you can do.”
Hanke said there are two ways to look at the cost to the public: The maximum levy amount, which would be $0.45 per $1,000 of assessed property value in any given year, or the anticipated amount, which is about $0.13 per $1,000 spread across a 20-year period.
Either way, the maximum levy collection would be for $15 million, Hanke said.
He recommended the port lead with the collection of $0.13 per $1,000 of assessed value.
“That’s more of a probable representation of what’s going to happen,” he said.
Chmelik said that, at $0.13 per $1,000, the cost to a property owner who has a $350,000 home would be about $45.50 per year.
Tucker wanted to be able to compare it to a similar request, such as the city’s lid lift for library service.
“I want them to kind of understand we’re not shooting for the moon, we’re just asking for a levy lid lift,” he said.
Chmelik said the port commission will be required to hold a public hearing every year to present which projects may be funded with those levy dollars and how much property tax collection would be required in order to fulfill those needs.
“It’s going to be pretty transparent to the public as it goes forward,” he said.
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].