The 1911 Washington State law that first authorized citizens to form public ports also allows a maximum annual property tax levy of 45 cents per $1000 of assessed value of taxable property within the port district. State law allows each port to decide whether or not to asses taxes and also set the levy amount.
Today, the Port of Vancouver receives about 27 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. For example, a property valued at $350,000 would be assessed about $96 annually. The total amount collected annually from taxes is approximately $11.96 million. These funds must be used for specific purposes including:
No tax dollars are used to pay staff salaries or salaries and expenses associated with our Board of Commissioners.
Port of Vancouver Compared to Other Local Taxing Jurisdictions
Taxes at Work
By law, ports are tasked with bringing investment and jobs to their communities. Improving port facilities to create more jobs and encouraging business growth for the community is one of the Port of Vancouver’s top priorities. The port has more than 50 marine and industrial tenants that employ nearly 4,000 people, generating personal wages of $753 million annually. The port receives leasehold excise tax when it leases public property to a private party or business. The leasehold excise tax – which takes the place of personal property tax – is used to pay for government services provided to local area residents. Port marine and industrial tenants contribute $132 million in state and local taxes. Port and tenant employees make local purchases too such as groceries, lunches out, daycare, haircuts and generate $386 million in local spending.
Port activities ripple out and influence thousands of jobs in Clark County, as well as injecting millions of dollars into our economy. The total economic impact of the Port of Vancouver is $3.8 billion annually. When you consider there are three ports in Clark County (Port of Vancouver, Port of Ridgefield and Port of Camas Washougal) our ports are truly impressive economic engines.
Public’s Return on its Investment
Every four years the port conducts an economic impact study. The port’s last study, conducted in 2018, shows that the port levied almost $10 million in property taxes to accomplish its important work. The port and its 50 marine and industrial tenants in turn generated $132.4 million back in state and local taxes. That represents a 1:13 return on investment, meaning for every $1 the public gave the port in the form of taxes, the port and its marine and industrial businesses returned $13 to state and local governments. These dollars are used to help pay for critical services like police, fire and schools. Without the port’s economic contribution, taxpayers would shoulder an even larger share of paying for these critical services.
Sources of Port Revenue
Property taxes account for only a portion of the revenue needed to operate the port as the chart below shows. Note the majority, 73% of port revenues, come from users of our marine terminal operations and lease revenues from port commercial and industrial facilities. Taxes account for 21% of port revenue.