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When the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay (Port) was created In January of 1988 via SB962 no funding provisions from the state were included. The Ports main revenue sources where property taxes, bonding authority, and port operations fees.

That is until the arrival of the Jordan Cove Energy Project (JCEP) and creation of the Community Enhancement Plan (CEP).

In exchange for a 20-year tax break JCEP would pay in lieu of property taxes an annual Community Service Fee (CSF). The CSF allocates 75 percent to traditional recipients such as schools and local governments. The remaining 25 percent which under a normal property tax scenario would also go to local schools and governments; instead is earmarked for the Waterfront Development Partnership (WDP), to be used to promote development along the Bay Area waterfront. Over the life of the JCEP in excess of $100 million will accrue to the WDP.

Who will benefit from WDP’s legacy? Likely the Port since traditionally it has championed waterfront development.

The problem; since Port directors are political appointees of the governor this arrangement launders what historically have been property taxes through the WDP and repurposes them to the Port; constituting a state tax. The lost revenue to Coos County over the life of the JCEP via the WDP; by one estimate approximates $40 million. The cities of Coos Bay, North Bend, SWOCC, Library District, and 4-H extension will also be affected.

This might be manageable if the government entities impacted were financially strong. However, they’re not, as each struggles annually to balance its budget. Coos County has already broached the idea of a sheriff's tax levy to fund the jail, and the cities already have, or are considering imposing utility service fees.

The question is; how can the cities and county replace this diversion of property tax dollars to the WDP and keep their present level of services. Options include; increase revenue and/or cut services. Coos County can barely balance its budget; barring a miracle it will have to raise taxes.

The obvious solution is to terminate the CEP entirely, and levy property taxes on the JCEP. The irony is that the JCEP was sold to the community as a harbinger of new opportunity and prosperity, however under the CEP; taxes and fees could increase as a result of it.

Steve Scheer

Coos Bay

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