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Feb. 6, 2023

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Port of Vancouver officials confident as they OK $77.9M budget for 2023

CEO: Facility is ‘a strong economic engine’ of region

By , Columbian staff writer
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Port of Vancouver officials expressed confidence for the future in the face of uncertain economic times as they approved a $77.9 million budget for 2023.

“Despite supply chain disruptions and economic uncertainty, the port remains a strong economic engine for Southwest Washington by diversifying our business lines and stabilizing operating revenues,” said Julianna Marler, chief executive at the port, in a statement to the press. “We are optimistic for 2023 and this budget reflects our sense of fiscal responsibility and stewardship to the community.”

The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the budget at its Nov. 22 meeting.

The port’s operating revenues, which cover its day-to-day operations and staff salaries, is forecast at $49.6 million for 2023. Those come primarily from the port’s marine, terminal and rail operations, as well as from commercial and industrial leases.

Tax revenue is projected to be $13 million. That’s used exclusively for environmental remediation, repayment of general obligation bonds and to improve facilities.

General obligation bonds go toward paying for things like large infrastructure projects — such as a new berth or public pathways geared toward more public access of port property. Money left over from after the initial development is then used for maintenance so the assets can reach their full intended useful life and beyond, said Scott Goodrich, director of finance and accounting at the port.

Expenses are expected to rise over those forecasts for the 2022 year, which the port says is primarily due to the increase in terminal operating revenue and related expenses. The total is expected to be $55.2 million. Nonoperating expenses will be $10.34 million in debt repayment and $1.06 million in environmental remediation.

The port imports and exports a number of products from grain, which isn’t very labor intensive, to cars, which all need to be individually driven off of the ships they’re delivered on. The ports associated expenses will then depend upon the cargo mix they foresee. Technology and automotive cargoes are expected to stay strong into next year.

“We are anticipating based on those increased volumes more labor costs and equipment costs associated with that specific mix that we’re forecasting for next year,” said Goodrich.

Aside from that, the port, like everyone else, is subject to inflationary pressures.

“We have to factor those into those costs, as well,” added Goodrich.

There are many challenging realities in the global economy, said Goodrich, but the port is committed to its mission.

“We’re pretty confident that our outlook is going to remain pretty consistent with this year’s performance into the next,” he said.

This year was especially good for the port, but Goodrich expects they will have to be flexible next year.

The port “will really need to be agile and able to respond with the dynamic changing economic conditions that are expected in the back half of 2023,” he said. “So we remain optimistic.”