Port budget reflects growth in operations

The Port of Grays Harbor’s 2013 budget, adopted Tuesday, doesn’t include a property tax increase.

The spending plan doesn’t include a permitted 1 percent property tax increase and is based on “historic growth” for the Port, Mary Nelson, director of finance and administration, told Port commissioners before the budget was unanimously adopted.

It includes operating revenues of $27.2 million, a slight decrease from figures in the preliminary budget presented in October.

Operating expenses are $22.4 million. and capital improvement projects are expected to cost $8.4 million, funded by an estimated $2.3 million from the existing tax levy amount and from grants and loans or debt financing for construction.

Trade volumes have grown 75 percent in 2012, and are expected to increase 19 percent in 2013, largely because of exports from the AG Processing expansion in grain exporting at Terminal 2, the expansion of auto exports and renewed export log activity, according to a report from staff.

The property tax assessment is dedicated to capital improvement projects as directed by the commission, and it will remain at .363, or 36 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. The Port is allowed to increase property tax by up to 1 percent a year, but by state law it cannot exceed 45 cents per $1,000 of value.

For 2013, property tax revenue represents 7 percent of total Port revenues, with 82 percent provided by tenants and customers, and 11 percent from other sources, according to staff.

Marine terminal revenue is expected to be $21.2 million in 2013, compared to the $19.6 million projected for 2012 and the $12.2 million brought in during 2011.

“You have a very solid base in your tenant operations and then the growth and diversification in your marine terminal operations, along with the most recent growth at the AGP silo project and with the Port’s rail,” Nelson said.

She also noted that Pasha Automotive Services is estimating it will increase exports of autos from the Port.

General Manager Mike Pasha earlier told the commission the company has seen export volumes increase each year for the past three years. In 2010, the company anticipated shipping 20,000-30,000 Chrysler vehicles from the Port, but the number went up to 35,000 last year and 70,000 in 2012. The company now has other clients, too, such as Caterpillar and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and has seen its number of workers go from 25 in 2010 to 90 people processing as many as 450 vehicles a day.

“With those volumes comes the necessity to make improvements to accommodate,” Pasha said of a number of planned projects the company will undertake, such as an automatic car wash and prep area, along with the Port’s paving program and other improvements as part of the capital budget.

The budget does not project much growth in industrial properties.

“There have been some temporary leases that will go away, but our overall tenant occupancy of buildings is very strong and we feel very fortunate during this economic climate to have the industrial properties serving our community this way,” Nelson said.

The overall trend, she added, is for growth of about 10 percent for 2013. The Port expects to handle about 2.2 million metric tons of material through the marine terminals in 2013, with 91 vessels calling on the Port (85 vessels this year).

The budget also includes $2.1 million in 2013 to pay debt service on bonds used to finance the new rail system project and from refinanced 1999 bonds, with over $19 million combined outstanding.

Capital improvement projects include $4.1 million in improvements in the marine terminals (largest expense is $1.8 million for cargo yard improvements), $1.78 million in industrial properties projects, $937.000 for the Westport Marina ($515,000 of that for bankline reconstruction), $790,000 for overall maintenance, $17,000 for administration and $789,333 for Bowerman Airport ($288,889 of that will be for new perimeter fencing).

A large number of the projects, Nelson said, have been deferred from past years and need to be done.

“Many of the projects are also customer-driven,” Nelson said. “We’ve had to prioritize and look for infrastructure projects that are really critical for us going forward.”