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Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

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Port of Ridgefield considers tax increment financing to fund infrastructure projects

By , Columbian staff writer

The Port of Ridgefield could become the latest Clark County jurisdiction to turn to tax increment financing to fund its infrastructure projects, including along its Lake River waterfront.

Randy Mueller, chief executive officer for the port, said in an interview Monday that the port is still investigating the idea.

While tax increment financing can be complicated, proponents say it can be a big help in paying for expensive public projects.

Approved by the Legislature in 2021, tax increment financing allows jurisdictions to create separate tax increment areas. Properties within the designated tax area are assigned a fixed or “base” property value when the tax area is formed. Other tax districts, such as the city, fire district or county — so-called junior districts — would continue to receive property tax revenues based on that fixed value, rather than the assessed value updated annually.

However, taxes levied on future increases in the assessed value of the property — or the incremental value — are paid to the port to pay for the public improvements.

The port has identified two areas for the tax plan: one near the waterfront and a larger area near the Interstate 5 interchanges at Northeast 179th Street and Northeast 219th Street.

Mueller said the port hasn’t finalized a list of projects yet but does have some categories identified, including rebuilding the waterfront.

Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue Chief John Nohr raised concerns about the potential impacts on junior taxing districts — like his — last year as the city of Ridgefield was drafting its tax plan.

“The thing that concerns us is it’s a 25-year process,” Nohr said in a June interview.

Nohr said the new development that results from the tax plans will translate to additional calls for service but without the corresponding tax revenue to pay for firefighters and equipment to respond to those calls.

Mueller said the port plans to meet with the junior taxing districts before the tax plan is finalized.

Additionally, there will be two public meetings where residents will be able to learn more about the proposal and offer feedback.

On the web

Learn more about the Port of Ridgefield’s tax increment financing proposal at portridgefield.org/tax-increment-financing.

The tax increment financing plan won’t be the only option the port looks at to fund its future development, especially along the waterfront.

“We are pursuing grant funds, we are talking about the port contributing funds and we’re talking about future developer contributions,” Mueller said. “Honestly, there aren’t that many tools in the toolbox for us to fund really large projects like this.”

Mueller said the dates for public meetings should be announced soon. Updates will be posted to the port’s website.