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Port of Woodland, Wash., Weighs Budget, $3M for Fiber

Some $3.1 million of the $6.3 million budget under consideration is slated for a project to install fiber-optic cables in the rural area between Ariel and Cougar. The project is currently in the engineering phase.

Fiber optics
(TNS) — The Port of Woodland commissioners are considering a roughly $6 million expenditure budget as they begin the 2024 budget development process.

Commissioners will hold a public hearing for the final budget 9 a.m. Nov. 2 at the port, 1608 Guild Road in Woodland. They will vote and finalize the budget at the Nov. 16 meeting.

The draft preliminary budget is still in the works, but the released proposal currently shows that capital expenses will outweigh revenue by $743,044, while operating expenses will be slightly less than what the port will bring in when it comes to operational revenue.

The port's budget works differently than general municipalities because of a "use-it-or-lose-it" process, said Port of Woodland Executive Director Jennifer Wray-Keene in an email to The Daily News.

That's why they do not look to balance the budget because the port has reserves from property sales that would commit to projects designed to generate more revenue, Wray-Keene said. Certain projects get cut prior to the preliminary budget, usually if there is not enough reserve funding or if revenue from property sales does not materialize, she said.

"However, because our budget is more of a work plan, it can change throughout the year with leases, new ventures, purchases of properties, etc. This is especially true with the capital budget. Because we still have bids out for several projects like the painting and paving, we will get those more finalized for the final budget," Wray-Keene said in an email.

Most of these expenses, which total an early estimate of $6.3 million, will come from a $3.1 million project to install fiber optic cables in the rural area between Ariel and Cougar. This project is currently being engineered and will wrap up the first phase this month, Wray-Keene said.

The port has secured $1.97 million total from the Washington state Community Economic Revitalization and another $658,832 from the Washington State Broadband Office, Wray-Keene said, to improve internet access in areas where most residents still use faulty satellite dishes as their main internet sources.

Other major expenses include the construction of two buildings on Rose Way Industrial Park, which has been a planned project since 2020 and is set to cost about $2.6 million. The planned timeline shows work on these buildings will likely wrap up in July.

Capital revenue is expected to total $5.6 million, shy of being able to match the projected expenses of 2024. Most revenue comes from the EDA building, earnings from the dark fiber internet cables is expected to bring in $2.6 million, and about $1 million from state-issued loans the port secured in 2021.

The draft budget also plans to ensure the port has $499,000 in its cash reserves.

The port expects to bring in $896,774 just from operating revenue streams, which include land and building leases as well as regular operations such as state timber taxes, rail car fees from Schurman Rail Spur, interest and sales of surplus properties.

Operational expenses are predicted to cost the port $858,794 during 2024.

Most of these costs will stem from salaries and benefits for port staff at $571,877, according to the draft budget. Another $286,917 will come from ordinary operations expenses, such as taxes, office and maintenance costs, auditing services and outside services.

Sydney Brown is a news reporter for The Daily News covering business and environmental issues in Cowlitz County.

©2023 The Daily News, Longview, Wash. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.