No tax increase in 2010 Port budget

The Bellingham Business Journal

Whatcom County’s taxpayers will not face any property tax increases from the Port of Bellingham in 2010. The Port’s board of commissioners recently adopted the 2010 Strategic Budget and directed staff to maintain the current tax rate.

“People are struggling during this economic downturn and we believe the port’s most important roles are economic development and job creation,” said Commission President Scott Walker. “The last thing we want to do is adopt a budget that increases people’s taxes.”

This is the sixth year that the commission has chosen to forgo taking the allowed annual property tax rate increase. Because of this, the port’s current property tax revenue of $7.4 million is $3.5 million less than the permitted legal limit. The estimated annual port-levied property tax on a $275,000 home will be $77, which is lower than the year before.

Since 1995, commissioners have restricted the port’s use of property taxes and have required the port’s operations in the airport, marinas, real estate and marine terminals to be self-supporting. The 2010 budget includes $58.8 million in total expenditures, a larger than normal budget because of $32 million in capital projects. The budget maintains the current staffing levels.

Construction at the Bellingham International Airport will be a major focus for the port in 2010 with the rehabilitation of the runway and a taxiway. These projects, as well as construction to improve the passenger waiting area and airport parking, will come with a more than $25 million price tag. All but $5.2 million of these costs will be paid by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Our airport is an important transportation asset for the entire community,” Walker said. “We recognize that it is essential to maintain and improve the airport so that it can continue to serve businesses and residents of Whatcom County.”

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