Port of Lewiston plans to cut property tax dependence, Lewiston Tribune, May 12, 2016



The Port of Lewiston is expecting to trim its dependence on property tax revenue for the second consecutive year.

A draft budget port commissioners reviewed Wednesday contains $405,000 in revenue from property taxes for the coming fiscal year, a reduction of $15,000 from this year. The port collected $450,000 in property taxes in the 2015 fiscal year.

The decision to seek a lower amount reflects the commissioners’ concern for constituents, Port Commission President Mike Thomason said.

“We owe it to our taxpayers to be as efficient as we can,” he said. “We thought that was a good number, considering the work we have to do and our current financial status.”

The commissioners are looking at a lower amount even though they are putting together a $2.72 million budget at a time when the port is in a challenging financial spot.

Funding from building leases, the container dock and warehouse revenue has plummeted from $1.31 million two years ago to an estimated $865,000 for the coming fiscal year. That reduction came after the port lost almost all its container handling business because of problems at the Port of Portland in Oregon, where the cargo was transferred onto ocean-going ships. All of the major carriers that took containers overseas no longer call at Portland.

Real estate sales are the port’s only other significant revenue source and none are included in the budget for the coming year.

To help compensate, the port expects to take $1.25 million from its reserves, a move Thomason said makes sense because it will offset $1.83 million for new infrastructure that is aimed to encourage economic development and bring in revenue.

The major projects are building a new telecommunications network in Lewiston, flattening more than 13 acres at the former EKO Compost site to open it to new use and renovating its business incubator space.

The telecommunications network will be leased at wholesale rates to businesses that sell high-speed internet and cellphone service, enabling those companies to improve security and provide faster download and upload speeds.

Those upgrades represent the largest category of spending behind employee compensation, which is expected to be about $340,000, counting retirement and medical benefits.

All five employees are budgeted to receive a raise of at least 4 percent, partly because no one had an increase last year, Thomason said.

Port Manager David Doeringsfeld, the port’s highest-paid employee, would be earning $102,428 a year with the bump. Assistant Port Manager Jaynie Bentz would see her salary reach $60,000 with a 9 percent increase, something she received because of her new responsibilities overseeing the telecommunications network.

Port commissioners put a lot of thought into determining what fair pay should be, and looking at what others in similar roles make.

“I didn’t want to get caught in a circumstance where we lost good quality people and had to spend an exorbitant amount of money to train someone,” Thomason said.

A hearing on the budget for fiscal year 2017 is set for noon June 8 at the Port of Lewiston office at 1626 Sixth Ave. N.

Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2261.