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Port of Tacoma business revival improving budget forecasts

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Nov. 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
November 8, 2012 4:07 pm

Thanks to a revival of its container shipping business and an unexpected jump in its exports of construction machinery, the Port of Tacoma is meeting or exceeding nearly all of its budget goals.

That was the message Thursday from port finance and business planners to Port of Tacoma commissioners as they prepared to approve a 2013 budget.

“We’ve had a really strong year,” said the port’s chief executive, John Wolfe. “We’re outperforming our plan.”

The port’s international container business is up 20.2 percent in the third quarter compared with its original projection. Its breakbulk business, cargoes too large to be carried in standard containers, is 100 percent above the original projection, said port business planner Josh Adams.

Auto imports are 16.3 percent over the port’s original forecasts.

The move of a big shipping consortium, the Grand Alliance, to Tacoma from Seattle in mid-summer has added significantly to the port’s container business. Strong construction and mining activity in China and Australia are helping its machinery exports.

Those improving results will likely be reflected again in 2013’s business, the port told commissioners.

Container numbers are likely now to exceed the target numbers published last spring in the port’s strategic plan by 6.9 percent. Grain exports are now forecast to exceed their target amounts by 11.1 percent and breakbulk cargoes are likely to go beyond the port’s goals by 30.8 percent.

The port’s income from operations is now likely to surpass its 2012 budget projection by $5.7 million, said the port’s director of financial planning and treasury, David Morrison.

While the port’s revenues are expected to be up by $7.8 million, the port has kept a lid on its expenses. Those expenses are now are expected to exceed initial projects that were based on less business by $2.1 million.

That higher revenue is expected to allow the port commission to keep a lid on property tax rates next year despite a decline in the value of Pierce County real estate.

The port’s administration Thursday recommended commissioners hold the property tax rates steady at 18.365 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation despite a nearly $4 billion decline in the appraisal of all Pierce County properties.

For the average homeowner, that will mean their port tax bill will decline to $39.35 next year from $47.47 a year ago if port commissioners approve the recommendation.

The port uses the proceeds of those taxes, an estimated $12.66 million next year, to pay down bonds and to fund environmental projects.

The Port Commission is scheduled to consider adopting the budget at its Nov. 15 meeting.

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