Port of Bellingham commissioners are slated to vote on the port’s 2024 budget during their regular board meeting on Tuesday, November 21.
The Port of Bellingham generates revenue through property taxes, port-owned marinas in Bellingham and Blaine, the Bellingham International Airport, marine terminals and real estate property. The budget’s expenditures focus on economic development, infrastructure preservation and environmental cleanup.
The port budget forecasts operating revenues to increase from 2023 to 2024, with a total of $33.5 million in revenue, said Tamara Sobjack, chief financial officer for the port. Operating expenses will also be $33.5 million, up from 2023 due to increased costs and inflation.
Overall, the port is projecting a $12 million deficit, due to capital works and environmental cleanup projects. Sobjack said despite the deficit, the port has a healthy reserve and is expected to end 2024 with $27 million.
Port staff anticipate spending $22.3 million on capital projects. The 2024 budget’s largest capital projects will focus on Blaine Harbor and Squalicum Harbor improvements. The largest capital project in Blaine Harbor will be replacing the boathouse with open slips on M dock, totaling $2.8 million in 2024.
The port has allocated funds for Blaine Harbor capital projects in 2024: $60,000 for webhouse lighting; $10,000 for cashless vending improvements; $80,000 on condition assessments for piers N and S; $75,000 on a pier condition survey; and $50,000 for a condition survey of the wooden promenade.
Blaine Harbor is expected to generate $3.3 million in operating revenue, $2.9 million of which will come from recreational moorage. Budget projections show the harbor will generate $1.2 million in net income as its operating expenses are forecast to be under $2.1 million.
The port is waiting to receive grants for the Blaine Marine Drive project and the Blaine Marine Drive bulkhead replacement.
While not included in the 2024 budget, the port has labeled a $400,000 solar installation project at Blaine Harbor a high-priority project for the future. Also scheduled for the future, the port is considering constructing a $9.83 million new sawtooth pier in Blaine.
Commissioners are expected to approve a one-percent property tax levy increase, which is the highest amount taxing districts may annually increase their levy without voter approval.
The Port of Bellingham will hold a public hearing on the 2024 draft budget at the November 21 meeting.
The meeting is scheduled at 4:30 p.m. remotely and at the Port of Bellingham Harbor Center, 1801 Roeder Avenue, suite 146, in Bellingham. The link for remote meeting access is available on the meeting agenda, which will be posted at portofbellingham.com/agendacenter.
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