FREEPORT — Officials moved to keep the current tax rate of 4.01 cents per $100 of property value and approved the budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year when the Port Freeport Commission met Thursday.

Commissioners moved to keep the same property tax rate. The effective tax rate is 3.94 cents per $100 of property value, meeting documents state. The effective tax rate is the tax rate that would generate the same amount of revenue as the previous year from properties on the tax rolls both years.

“The Port Commission is pleased to be in the position to honor our commitment to the public to maintain the current tax rate as we advance the port’s strategic initiatives that support local job creation and overall economic prosperity for our entire region,” Commission Chairman Shane Pirtle said.

The port is currently putting 3 of the 4 cents from the revenue toward maintenance and operations, with the remaining 1 cent going toward debt. That will continue into this upcoming year, Public Affairs Manager Lauren McCormick said.

From 2011 to 2016, the port was able to gradually decrease its tax rate and maintain the rate of 4 cents per $100 since 2016, according to a handout posted to the port’s website.

Port Freeport projects the rate to hold until 2027. Officials are proud to be able to maintain the rate after the $130 million bond referendum that was approved in 2018, McCormick said.

This bond goes toward the widening and deepening of the Freeport Harbor Channel, according to a Port Freeport handout posted to the port’s website.

Although the rate will remain the same, the average taxable value of a residential homestead went up almost $10,000, so people might see a raise in their tax payments, according to a public hearing notice.

Of the total tax revenue, 71 percent comes from industrial and commercial entities. The rest comes from residents in the area, McCormick said.

The budget for the upcoming year was also approved at the meeting. It includes continued investment in infrastructure projects such as the expansion of the port’s container handling facility and a portion of the channel expansion project, McCormick said.

Of the port’s total budgeted expenditures, $116 million will go toward capital projects for this fiscal year, McCormick said.

That $116 million accounts for over 80 percent of the total budgeted expenditures for the 2019-20 fiscal year, Port Freeport Executive Director and CEO Phyllis Saathoff said.

“We are seeing a significant increase in vessel traffic and commercial activity. I am excited for the port to have the ability to invest in infrastructure to deliver a safe, navigable waterway that can handle the size and types of ships that call all terminals in the Freeport Harbor Channel,” Saathoff said.

Lyndsey Privett is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0149.

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