EVERETT — Should the Port of Everett expand its boundaries to include most of Snohomish County?
That’s a question port commissioners would like county residents to consider.
Port officials say enlarging the district could make port resources, including matching port funds, as well as state and federal funding sources, available to more communities.
To gauge interest, the port has created an online survey, available now through Nov. 26.
Around the state, many large port districts encompass the entire county. That’s not the case in Snohomish County.
The county’s largest port district, the Port of Everett, is comprised of Everett, portions of Mukilteo and a few smaller areas near Marysville. As a result, only 15% of the county can take advantage of the port’s resources, port CEO Lisa Lefeber said.
Property owners within the district pay about 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Residents with a home valued at $550,000 currently pay about $100 a year in taxes.
Port taxes are only used to fund environmental cleanup, public access and debt service. They cannot be used to cover operating costs, including salaries and benefits.
Like a private venture, each of the port’s three business lines — the marina, the cargo port and real estate — are required to be self-supporting.
If the port grows, property owners within the new boundary would pay port taxes.
During port outreach meetings in 2018 and 2019, elected officials, tribal leaders and residents expressed interest in partnering with the Port of Everett on community projects, Lefeber said.
However, ports are limited in their ability to invest in areas outside their boundaries.
To take advantage of the port’s expertise and economic resources, the district would have to be enlarged to encompass most of Snohomish County.
“Hypothetically, it could be the entire county, excluding Edmonds, which has its own port district,” Lefeber said
Enlarging the district would, of course, enlarge the tax base, adding additional revenue for business development, local job growth, transportation improvement and recreational and environmental projects.
“The larger your boundaries, the stronger your economic value,” Lefeber said.
The port’s current boundaries have not changed since voters approved them in 1918.
For boundary expansion to occur, an area would need to be identified and approved by the Port Commission, then submitted to the Snohomish County Council, which would approve sending the issue to voters.
The boundaries have to be contiguous, so you can’t jump communities, Lefeber said. Nor can it skip unincorporated areas.
Any measure to enlarge the district must be approved by voters of the proposed area by a simple majority over 50%. The earliest a ballot measure might appear would be next September, Lefeber said.
“We’ve met with all the cities and county council, the tribes,” Lefeber said, “and there definitely is interest in seeing what the voters have to say on this matter.”
It begins with the online survey, which takes about five minutes to complete.
The survey is an attempt to determine “what types of projects are important to you — jobs, boating facilities, mixed-use development, environmental stewardship,” the port CEO said.
The information will be used to assess if, and where, Port of Everett partnership is desired.
Port staff expect to bring a recommendation to the Port Commission by the end of the year.
To take the survey, which is available in English and Spanish, go to portofeverett.com/boundaries. Or take it by calling 909-496-5755, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
On Nov. 7, the Port of Everett will offer a free, virtual presentation on port boundaries. The online event, sponsored by Economic Alliance Snohomish County, is open to anyone. To register to attend, go to: tinyurl.com/3cep3wsy