Port’s budget grows, but so will tax revenues for the city

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  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:24am

It is a relief to report that one of our biggest jobs of the year is finally over. No, not holiday decorating. I’m talking about the Port of Edmonds 2007 budget.

Now I recognize that as a topic for a column, budget talk may seem a bit dull, but — in our case at least — it shouldn’t. We are talking about some exciting projects and some pretty big dollars. Public dollars. Your dollars.

For example, next year the port’s operating budget shows that we will probably collect over $6 million from various sources. At the same time we will spend all but $136,000 of it. Overall expenses are up around 48 percent; revenues are expected to increase by 35 percent.

Here is a familiar example: Both the income and expense for the port’s fuel dock have increased over the past few years (and I think we all know why). As significant as that is, the major factor driving the 2007 budget increase isn’t the price of oil, it is Harbor Square, the business park just east of the marina.

The port has owned the Harbor Square land since the 1990s. Most of the area is fill, created when the adjoining waterfront was dredged to build the marina. Until April the Harbor Square buildings have been owned and operated by private interests. With the completion of a recent sales agreement, the port now owns all but two of them. Now Harbor Square’s revenues and operating expenses become part of the port budget as well.

For example, our employee cost — salaries, taxes and benefits — are up over 17 percent, due largely to the expense of operating and maintaining Harbor Square. The same is true for the port’s utilities bills; they will approximately double next year.

There is another port budget besides the operating budget. It is called the capital budget and it deals with land, buildings and infrastructure of various kinds. Simply stated, these are things we buy and own, as opposed to the income and expense of operating them. The 2007 capital budget for the Port of Edmonds is $1 million and, once again, the acquisition of Harbor Square plays a big role. There is nearly a quarter million dollars budgeted for improvements there in 2007.

Meanwhile, at the marina, the port will apply for a grant for a new restroom and shower facility in the south marina next year, and the postponed public plaza project on the water side of the Anthony’s building may finally be built. The $400,000 estimated cost has been included in the capital budget, in the event that the Commission decides the time is right.

All in all, our projections show that in about three or four years Harbor Square will be self supporting. The added revenues will allow us to stimulate local business. That in turn will increase the city’s tax base, which can help to keep property taxes in line — a classic win-win scenario.

This is what the Port of Edmonds is all about: fostering and nurturing economic development to the benefit of everyone in the community. For those of us at the Port of Edmonds, it is very satisfying to be a part of it.

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