Wednesday, June 28, 2017 This Week's Paper

Port of Tacoma gives taxpayers a break

In recognition of the current economic climate, the Port of Tacoma is giving property taxpayers a modest break in 2009.

The port commission voted unanimously to reduce the millage rate from 18.59 cents to 18.365 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. For the owner of a $300,000 home, the savings would be about $0.67 for the year.

The 2008 assessed value for properties in Pierce County was almost $89 billion. In 2009, the assessment on those same properties will increase by slightly more than $1 billion. The port will collect the same total tax - about $397,000 - on those properties, so the rate per $1,000 in assessed value decreased. Property owners whose property values have increased may also see an increase in their total assessed property.

The port will levy about $16.9 million in property tax in 2009, up about $397,000 from last year. The added tax comes from properties with new construction or improvements, totaling an added $2 billion in assessed value. The same millage rate of 18.365 cents will be applied to these properties.

Of the $16.9 million in tax revenue that will be collected in 2009, $11.1 million will go toward debt service on general obligation bonds, and the remaining $5.8 million will go toward government projects. Historically, the port has used tax revenue to fund transportation projects, environmental projects and security initiatives.

This month, the Pierce County assessor-treasurer's office will adjust property values, and the commission will have an opportunity to adjust its tax figures based on the adjustments. But the commission has made it clear that they have no plans to raise the millage rates.

"If that $92 billion turns out to be less, we have the option to say that then we are going to take less, so there is no way that millage rate will go up," said Commissioner Connie Bacon. She directed port staff to monitor property value changes and consider any rebalancing that might need to be done.

The tax levy was a small part of the port's 2009 budget, which includes an operating budget, a five-year program budget, the tax levy and a plan of finance. This year's budget process was particularly challenging as the economy has fluctuated over the past few months.

"In any year a budget exercise is a fairly intense one that we go through and this year in particular I would say that it's particularly challenging," said Port Executive Director Tim Farrell. "We've come up with a plan for 2009. Undoubtedly there will be more twists and turns in 2009 that today we don't have visibility to so we're going to manage through those."

The port adopted the new tax levy, as well as the 2009 statutory budget, at a special meeting Nov. 24.