Port details increasing money woes

For the past 11 years, the Port of Coupeville’s budget reserves have faded away like the Cheshire cat, but in this case nobody is smiling.

Port Executive Director Jim Patton highlighted the dire financial situation Wednesday to explain why taxpayers will likely be asked to approve a levy lift this fall.

The port’s money problems were caused by the purchase of the Greenbank Farm and the numerous projects undertaken to maintain antiquated facilities and buildings there.

The port’s reserves were at $406,000 in 1997 when it took on a $1.3 million bond to pay its share for the Greenbank Farm. The port has had to pay $100,100 each year for 20 years. Since the port didn’t go to the voters to approve a tax increase, it had to use money collected from its regular levy.

In addition to the Greenbank Farm debt, which is scheduled to be paid off in 2017, the port has had to pay for several maintenance projects at both the Coupeville Wharf and the Greenbank Farm.

Projects at the wharf included a new sanitary discharge line, dry fire suppression system and interior upgrades.

Port officials were temporarily able to restore reserves, which reached an all-time high of $469,000 in 2000. However, that was accomplished by holding off further maintenance projects, which the port eventually had to complete.

“What we’re facing now is a backlog of deferred maintenance,” Patton said during the Wednesday morning meeting.

Since the high mark of 2000, the port has had to dip into reserves to pay for remodeling Barn B and to construct a new potable water system at the Greenbank Farm. That, coupled with increased insurance costs, reduced reserves in 2005 to $87,977.

Patton cited several other maintenance projects the port needs to undertake, including reinforcing the steel plates that secure the concrete fueling piers to the wharf and painting the wharf building and port office building.

In addition to continued maintenance of port facilities, officials also want to have enough money to implement projects identified in the Greenbank Farm master site plan and make improvements to the wharf should passenger ferry service ever become a reality.

The port is considering asking a 6 cent per $1,000 assessed property value tax increase. That would bring the port property tax up to 21 cents per $1,000.

The tax increase would bring in an estimated $150,000 a year. That would pay for the bond for the Greenbank Farm and the fee paid to the Greenbank Farm Management Group.

The port is planning to run the levy during the November general election.

In the meantime, Patton is busy preparing information and scheduling meetings with community groups to inform residents about the need for a tax increase.

“The goal is to talk to every property owner in the district that will be effected by the levy lift,” Patton said.

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