Port tonnage

Four ships lined the Port of Longview docks Friday, with the one on the right taking on grain, which accounted for much of the increased tonnage that crossed the port docks.

Bill Wagner, The Daily News

After a banner year of cargo activity, Port of Longview commissioners voted Tuesday to cut the port’s property tax rates for the second year in a row.

The port expects to collect $2.1 million in property taxes in 2018, down from $2.6 million this year. The tax rate will drop from 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to about 26 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

For the owner of a $200,000 home, the new, lower levy will cost about $51.28 annually. That’s a savings of nearly $17 a year compared to the former levy rate.

“It’s the right thing to do. We’re in a position where we can still maintain our path forward while also reducing taxes for our constituents,” said Doug Averett, port commissioner.

Lower property taxes will shave $521,000 from the port’s total budget.

The property tax is used for capital projects and paying off debt.

This marks the second year that the port has reduced property taxes despite the fact that it also projecting that operating terminal revenue will fall. Even though grain cargo volumes surged this year, the port designed next year’s budget as if revenue from operating terminals and EGT will drop.

The Export Grain Terminal accounts for the bulk of the port’s revenue from terminal operations. EGT saw its cargo volume reach record levels. Grain exports spiked to 4.1 million in the first six months of the year, up 58 percent from the same period last year.

But after two years of bumper grain crops, the port isn’t banking on another banner grain year in 2018.

Instead, the port is projecting that revenue from terminal operations will fall to $33.28 million, down from $36.9 million projected for 2017.

“Grain and wheat products are difficult to predict. You will assume there’s some stability and then you get into a bumper-crop years. So we work closely with EGT to help crystal ball tomorrow’s grain, wheat and barley — and it’s very hard to do,” said Jeff Wilson, port commissioner.

The port creates its revenue projections based on market activity expectations. This year the port underestimated the total amount of operating terminal revenue it would collect by about $2 million, so it’s possible the port could be underestimating again.

Averett said it was better for the port to budget with conservative revenue expectations.

“It gives us a better perspective if we budget conservatively — and that’s revenue and expenditures. It makes us take a better focus,” he said.

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