Property tax cut, more airport work in Port of Bellingham 2012 budget

Passengers wait in the terminal at Bellingham International Airport on June 28, 2011.
Passengers wait in the terminal at Bellingham International Airport on June 28, 2011. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

BELLINGHAM - The Port of Bellingham's proposed 2012 budget includes a small property tax cut as well as increases in revenue from operations at Bellingham International Airport and other port facilities.

The proposed budget also includes $32 million in construction projects on the Bellingham waterfront and the airport.

Port commissioners have scheduled a public hearing on the budget for 3 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, during the regular commission meeting at port headquarters, 1801 Roeder Ave.

The construction projects include the second phase of airport terminal construction, valued at $28 million, and completion of the $8.4 million Squalicum Harbor Gate 3 dredging and construction project. Another $7.1 million will be spent on environmental cleanup at the former Georgia-Pacific Corp. mill site and in the Whatcom Waterway.

"We are proposing a conservative budget that targets port resources toward job creation and completion of essential port projects," said port Executive Director Charlie Sheldon.

The draft budget forecasts a 3.2 percent increase in operating revenue over the 2011 budget, with total operating revenues at $21.6 million. Operating expenses are expected to grow by 1.8 percent over the 2011 budget primarily because of increased activities at the airport and Squalicum Harbor.

The draft budget also includes $6.7 million in countywide property taxes, at a rate of 29 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Owners of a $275,000 home would pay an estimated $81.97 in 2012. That's slightly less than the $82.89 paid this year, when the port reported collecting a total of $7.052 million in property taxes.

In a press release, Sheldon said the port expects to complete the waterfront planning process in cooperation with the city, and get redevelopment efforts under way in earnest.

The port also expects to continue its recent emphasis on efforts to bolster marine trades and commercial fishing activity.