Port's 2014 budget includes flat tax rate, new capital projects

The Port of Bellingham Board of Commissioners will vote Tuesday, Nov. 19, to adopt a 2014 budget that includes completion of a major expansion of the city’s airport, repairs to marine infrastructure and the start of environmental cleanup on sites in and around Bellingham’s central waterfront.

The $24.9 million budget also includes a proposal to keep property tax unchanged next year, with rates just under 30 cents (.2861 cents, to be exact) per $1,000 of property value. The proposal means a resident owning a $275,000 home will continue paying about $82 in property taxes to the port, which funds about one quarter of its operating budget with property tax.

Download the port’s full 2014 preliminary budget here.

A multiyear, $38.5 million expansion of the Bellingham International Airport is on schedule to finish in 2014. When the expansion is complete, the airport’s commercial terminal will be about three times the size it was before, and will include new baggage carousels, ticketing and gate areas.

The airport’s operational and capital expansion costs are supported by airport users, airlines and airport businesses.

Environmental cleanup work will factor heavily into the port’s activity next year and likely further on into the future. The agency’s environmental division is set to begin cleanup actions along with the Washington Department of Ecology at the former Georgia-Pacific pulp and paper mill, the Cornwall Avenue Landfill and Bellingham’s central waterfront.

The port plans to also initiate cleanup activities in the Whatcom County that will focus first on shoreline restoration in the inner waterway and targeted dredging near the Bellingham Shipping Terminal.

The budget also proposes about $10 million in capital projects, including money to build overnight parking sites for large commercial aircraft at the airport, make repairs and stormwater improvements to the Bellingham Shipping Terminal, replace a portion of the Fairhaven Shipyard Pier and install new fire sprinkler pressure lines, along with other upgrades, at Squalicum Harbor.

Among the port’s “corporate goals” next year:

– Finalize the initial development agreements for Bellingham’s future Waterfront District.
– Complete a new master plan for the Bellingham International Airport while managing airport growth to gain new revenue.
– Redevelop the Bellingham Shipping Terminal and adjacent Log Pond Area to prepare for new activity.
– Restore local marine infrastructure in need of repairs.

An agenda for the port commission’s Nov. 19 meeting indicates there will be a public hearing on the 2014 budget before commissioners vote on its adoption. Commission meetings begin at 3 p.m. in the conference room of the Harbor Center Building at 1801 Roeder Ave., in Bellingham.

Evan Marczynski, staff reporter for The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or evan@bbjtoday.com.

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