Port approves budget that cuts taxes, funds capital projects

The Bellingham Business Journal

At its Nov. 16 meeting, the port commission adopted a $52.3 million 2011 budget that includes $39.4 million in capital projects. Economic development and job creation are the focus of the new budget.

Commissioners voted to reduce the Port of Bellingham’s property tax collections by 5 percent due to effects of the recession in Whatcom County. They also directed staff to reduce proposed spending amounts so that a special county economic project fund of about $170,000 could be created. In February they will meet to discuss the best uses for that money.

“Ports were created to build the economic strength of a community and we take that role seriously,” Commission President Jim Jorgensen said in a press release. “Whether it is recruiting new businesses, helping existing businesses or creating new jobs through our capital improvement projects, we have directed staff to make our local economy the focus of their efforts.”

In an effort to bring new jobs to Whatcom County, port staff is actively conducting business recruitment in British Columbia and the Puget Sound area in a variety of business sectors and they will expand this effort in 2011.

The 2011 budget anticipates $20.9 million in operating revenues from the port’s various lines of business including the airport, real estate, marinas, and deep-draft terminals. It also anticipates $7 million in property taxes. Over the past six years, the port has reduced its tax rates from $105 in taxes on a $275,000 home in 2006, to $81 in 2011.

The budget includes $39.4 million for capital projects including $27.3 million of capital spending at the Bellingham International Airport, primarily for expansion of the commercial air terminal and construction of additional parking.

Squalicum Harbor will see $9.4 million of dredging and construction work in 2011 with the Gate 3 dredging and dock reconstruction project, commercial fishing sawtooth dock repair and webhouse repairs and repairs to other Squalicum docks.

Combined, capital projects should generate an estimated 500 short-term jobs in skilled trades and professions.

To view Port of Bellingham financial documents, visit www.portofbellingham.com, and select “About Us” from the menu.

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