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Port to vote on budget Thursday
Meeting day changed to follow today’s SEED presentations.
After getting two meetings’ worth of comments from the public about its Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) project, the Port of Bremerton’s Board of Commissioners are scheduled to vote tomorrow on a budget for 2009.
Last month, the board approved a preliminary budget for next year that issues general obligation(GO) bonds to match a $2.58 million grant from the federal government to start building its Sustainable Energy and Economic Development(SEED) project.
Voting on the final draft of the budget was postponed until after today’s town hall meetings since, as Chief Operating Officer Tim Thomson explained, the point of the presentations was for the board to hear from the public beforehand.
All in all, Chief Financial Officer Becky Swanson described the $27.8 million budget as “balanced,” and lacking any “fluff or stuff,” despite “placeholders” that would allow the port to hire more staff members.
“I think you’ve done a great job,” said Commissioner Bill Mahan after Swanson presented the budget. “This is a balanced budget that doesn’t cut and slash, but lets us go forward with lots of projects that will benefit the community.”
Commissioner Larry Stokes also commended Swanson for her work, but strongly disagreed with some aspects of the budget.
“This is a balanced budget because we’re issuing GO bonds,” Stokes said. “In my world, that’s borrowing money and and putting a mortgage against my property and the property of every taxpayer in the port district. I think it’s time we live within our means.”
Stokes said the amount of bonds should be “cut in half,” and the 1 percent increase in property tax collection removed.
Swanson said the increase, which was allowed by state law, totaled $76,000 and represented a “very, very nominal amount of money from each individual. I never want to say that money is not important, but the impact on the taxpayers is relatively small.”
To illustrate, Swanson said that with the average home value in the port’s district being $242,070, if the port applied the tax rate without any increase, the average taxpayer would pay $71.43 a year. With the 1 percent increase, she said the rate would be 70 cents more at $72.14.
Stokes said it was not the amount of the increase, but the principle.
“The port’s reputation is not good, and anything we can do to help it is good,” he said. “The port has a tax and spend attitude.”
The commissioners then voted 2-1 to accept the budget, with Stokes the only “no” vote.
A public hearing will be held tomorrow night during the board meeting to collect public comments regarding the proposed 2009 budget.
Adoption of the final budget will follow.
In the meantime, copies of the budget can be requested via e-mail or in person at the port’s office at 8850 SW Highway 3.
The document is also posted on the port’s website at www.portofbremerton.org.