Homeowners within the Kalama School District would see a significant drop in property taxes if the proposed methanol plant is built at the Port of Kalama, according to local officials.
School property tax burden is shared between residences and industry. So the more the industry pays, the less homeowners have to, said Superintendent Eric Nerison.
The plant would pay about $3.8 million in school taxes in its first year of operation, according to the Economic Impact Study conducted as part of the Final Environmental Impact Statement. That’s well more than the $2.26 million the district is collecting this year.
The amount the plant would decrease taxes for the average homeowner is unclear because the plant’s assessed value is unknown, Nerison said, and there are other complicating factors.
Port of Kalama Executive Director Mark Wilson would not comment on the proposed plant because the port is still in an open public comment period for the supplemental environmental study on the methanol project. However, he said any sort of project this size would have a noticeable effect on taxes.
School taxes increased “quite a bit” after a $64.3 million bond passed in February, but Wilson said the methanol project could cut them by about a third.
“If you’re a taxpayer in the school district, you’ll really like it,” Wilson said.
Northwest Innovation Works wants to build the $2 billion plant on 90 acres on the north end of the Port of Kalama. It would convert natural gas to methanol, a key ingredient in plastics manufacturing, which would be shipped to Asia.
Environmental groups and some residents oppose the project, citing high greenhouse gas emissions and other concerns. The controversial project is going though the permitting process.
Nerison said any large industrial project would decrease the tax burden on homeowners and could make it easier to ask voters to approve future funding proposals.
“A plant like that makes that number (property tax levy rate) a lot smaller and makes it easier to ask for community support,” Nerison said.
The plant would also affect other local taxing districts, including Kalama Fire District 5 and the county road and cemetery districts. The economic study states the plant would pay about $16.5 million in total property taxes in its first year of operation.
Depending on the plant’s assessed value, it would increase the total assessed property value of the county by 15 to 20 percent, County Assessor Terry McLaughlin said. That would mean a corresponding increase in the collectible amount of taxes, which could boost some county and district budgets.
Cowlitz Economic Development Council President Ted Sprague said although the jobs the plant could bring are mentioned often, the effect it would have on other parts of the county’s economy is forgotten.
“It will have a significant impact on roads, schools, police and fire, enhancing the quality of life for citizens in Cowlitz County,” Sprague said. “We lose sight of that.”