LONGVIEW — Commissioners last week unanimously approved next year’s $56 million budget plan for the Port of Longview as they reach the end of a financially successful year in which they consistently brought in record-breaking revenue.
Priorities for the port next year include lowering taxes by 61%, demolishing a long-vacant silo, continuing work on the Industrial Rail Corridor Expansion, developing a climate action plan and buying a steel company’s building to help boost revenue.
Net operating income for the port is budgeted to go down by $715,963 due to a project slated to begin next year that will remove the Berth 4 silo, which has sat empty since 1989.
While the port currently has the cash to cover the $6 million cost of demolishing the silo, they do expect to see this revenue drop mainly due to the large cost of the project, said Jennifer Brown, the port’s chief administrative and financial officer.
“There are some significant expenses in this that are unusual, and they are one-time expenses,” Port Chief Executive Officer Dan Stahl said during the Nov. 9 special commission meeting. “We have saved up the funds to do this, and this will help the development of Berth 4.”
The port budgeted $21.79 million for capital projects. These encompass the $8.86 million needed for the Industrial Rail Corridor Expansion, $5.42 million for equipment and vehicle purchases, $2.55 million for “regulatory” costs like permits and $970,000 for an overpass project.
The capital budget also highlights $175,000 to install security cameras on the Willow Grove Park property, $300,000 for bulk import and export projects, and $862,227 for miscellaneous rail and road projects.
Brown said they also added a $9 million purchase of the Skyline Steel building next to the port as a separate budget line because they will pull the money from general reserves and not necessarily the capital budget.
Skyline Steel will lease the building from the port and therefore help generate rent revenue, Brown said.
Funding for its capital projects come from different areas, with about $200,000 from local property taxes, $2.7 million from carryover funds, $1.8 million from customer contributions and government grants, and $17.1 million in its general fund.
Also in the port’s budget proposal is a 61% reduction in taxpayer rates.
Since 2017, port commissioners have voted to lower tax rates and are continuing with that trend for next year. In 2023, the tax rate will be 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, down from the 13-cent rate decided in a 2-1 vote last year.
Tax collection in 2022 went toward paying off the port’s various debts, with $1.5 million that was collected for debt coverage. Next year, the port plans to use its tax collection for capital projects, maintenance of Willow Grove Park and to bolster its general reserve fund. Tax collection will also go down due the rate change, totaling $680,163 in 2023.
Operating expenses are budgeted to total $56,526,251, higher than the 2022 projected expenses of $47.3 million.
Revenue for the operating budget is projected at $56,581,775, resulting in a net operations income of $55,523. The budget also predicts the Willow Grove Park Fund will have $420,836.