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Port of Longview passes 35% tax reduction in 2-1 vote

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The Port of Longview in November 2020.

The Port of Longview will cut taxes by 35% next year after a 2-1 vote Tuesday approved next year’s budget.

Commission Jeff Wilson voted against the budget, as he wanted to see a 100% tax reduction and cameras at Willow Grove Park.

At the 35% tax reduction rate, the port will collect $1.5 million, which is what the port pays yearly in debt service. The rate will be an estimated 13 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The options presented to the port were a 10% reduction, a 35% reduction and a 100% reduction. The commission has voted to reduce the rate every year since 2014, and the rate is 57% lower in 2021 than it was in 2014, Chief Administrative and Financial Officer Jennifer Brown said Friday.

The port is estimating a profit of $7.9 million in 2022, after a profit of $8.8 million in 2020.

Longview port commission eyeing tax rate reductions

The budget includes an operating revenue of $48.1 million and operating expenses of $39.8 million. An estimated $378,000 will go in the Willow Grove Park account and there will be a $16.8 million capital budget, with the largest expenditures going to equipment and the Industrial Rail Corridor expansion.

Wilson originally motioned for a 100% reduction and to add a $143,000 capital purchase for security cameras at Willow Grove, but it did not get a second and the motion died.

Commissioner Doug Averett motioned for a 10% reduction, but that also did not get a second. Wilson then motioned for only the 100% reduction and again did not get a second.

Commission President Allan Erickson motioned for the 35% reduction, which Averett seconded and the two ultimately voted to pass.

Erickson said he “heard the pleas for the elimination of taxes” at the public hearing, and while the comments made strong arguments, “it would be really easy for me and us, including Doug, to vote to levy zero taxes next year. It would be a really popular choice.”

“I’m not going to do that. I’m taking the more difficult tact and voting to collect a small tax next year,” Erickson said.

Port of Longview will not pay long-term care tax for employees

While the commission heard from 18 citizens at the public hearing, 16 of which called for a 100% reduction, Erickson said the port district includes 91,000 citizens “and I believe I represent them” with his vote.

He also said if the port wasn’t working on the $85 million Industrial Rail Corridor expansion project, it might be easier to forgo taxes for a period, but he wants to be able to put more money into the project up front to minimize the future bond debt on taxpayers.

“To choose to eliminate taxes now is a short-sighted vision,” he said.

Averett said while he “doesn’t like taxes any more than anyone else” keeping the tax revenue is the “prudent thing to do.”

“A 35% reduction even seems a little high for me, but I think it’s the right alternative to eliminating taxes at this time,” he said.

Port of Woodland passes 2022 budget focused on capital projects

Wilson said he was disappointed in the vote because “we heard from the people and we best learn that we should respect their voices.”

He also brought up his longstanding concerns about the rail expansion, saying he has not seen any agreements for businesses that will come if it is done or the return on investment. He said he believes “the Port of Longview is hoping and counting on colleting a minimum number of taxes for the next six plus years” to fund the expansion.

“We will not spend $143,000 for security cameras at Willow Grove, but we will spend $85 million on train tracks with no customers we know of to use them,” he said.

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