Rail expansion plans for coming year

The Port of Vancouver, USA Board of Commissioners approved its 2007 Final Statutory Budget of $83.2 million at a regular Commission meeting recently. The final 2007 budget provides for over $26.6 million in capital investments for marine and industrial expansion including funds for design and construction of expanded rail lines to serve existing and future port tenants and customers.

During 2007, the Port of Vancouver will begin investing in an expanded rail system to position the Port for long-term growth and to continue its mission to promote economic development that will bring jobs to Clark County and increase business revenues and taxes to fund public services. More than 70% of the five million metric tons of cargo moving through the port annually is transported by rail.

Marine cargo forecasts project a doubling of international trade over the next 20 years at the same time major West Coast ports are facing significant congestion problems. Ports with available land, modern dockside facilities, a quality labor force and ready access to road and rail transportation are in a favorable position to establish long-term contracts for maritime business.

In the 2007 final budget, projected revenue sources include $23.3 million from operations; $14.3 million from the issuance of general obligation bonds, $8.9 million from the tax levy and $7.6 million in other non-operating revenue. Tax levy collections are placed in a special account where the funds can only be used for capital investments, environmental clean up and repayment of bond debt. The budget also includes a beginning cash balance of $29.1 million.

On the expense side, 2007 operating expenses are projected at $17.5 million; payment of debt service at $4.3 million; capital projects at $26.6 million; and $6.1 million in non-operating expenses and environmental remediation costs. The budget includes a projected ending cash balance of $28.7 million including designated and restricted funds and reserves.

Capital improvements include design plans and the initial phase of construction for new rail lines accessing the port from the BNSF railway, completion of an addition to the port’s administrative office building, and annual maintenance projects. Additional funds have been allocated for continuing environmental clean up projects and security improvements.

Port Commissioners authorized a tax levy collection estimated in the amount of $8.9 million, and established a tax levy limit of 101 percent per Initiative 747. This will result in an estimated tax rate of 39.2 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, e.g. an owner of a $250,000 home in the port district would pay $98 in taxes to the port annually. This is a half-cent reduction from the 2006 port tax levy rate.

The 2007 Preliminary Budget was approved at a regular Commission meeting on October 24, 2006. This was followed by a public budget workshop where the Commissioners discussed the details of the preliminary operating and capital budgets.