Barge traffic sees growth at Port of Victoria
Aug. 25, 2014 at 5:57 p.m.
Victoria County commissioners also:
• Met in closed session to discuss property, boards and commissions and matters protected by attorney-client privilege.
• Set dates for budget hearings: 10:30 a.m. Sept. 15; 1 p.m. Sept. 18; 10 a.m. Sept. 22.
• Approved grants and local funding match with the attorney general for victim assistance coordinators for the criminal district attorney's office and sheriff's office.
Activity at the Port of Victoria is creating an economic impact of $10 billion, officials estimate.
Leaders from the Port of Victoria presented their annual report to Victoria County commissioners Tuesday, highlighting new docks, rail expansion and other improvements as contributors to the port's success.
The Eagle Ford Shale is the biggest game changer at the port, which is run by the Victoria County Navigation District. Last year, the district experienced a record-setting year, and Robby Burdge, chairman of the navigation district, is expecting numbers to continue to rise.
More than 2 million barrels per month of oil, sand, gravel, frac sand and other chemicals moved across port docks in 2013.
This year, officials expect to reach 3 million barrels each month.
"In a very short period of time, the port has really grown mainly due to Eagle Ford," said Mike Sizemore, a spokesman for the port. "Three years ago, no one had heard of the Port of Victoria. Now, we're on everybody's map."
The navigation district has been criticized in the past for subsidizing private business at the expense of homeowners.
The district collects about $1.5 million in taxes from Victoria County property owners at a rate of 2.77 cents per $100 valuation. Taxes make up about 29 percent of the port's total revenues and cover maintenance and operation. The tax rate is expected to drop to 2.40 cents.
One former critic has since recanted his concerns with the port's finances, saying in a letter, "I am always happy to see public monies spent well for the benefit of the taxpayers. The Port of Victoria is a case in point."
The port "creates jobs and more tax base in economic development at a very low cost to the taxpayer," Sizemore said. "You could argue that all taxpayers subsidize business in one way or another - roads that trucks drive on - but I certainly don't view it that way."
In 2012, the navigation district issued $10 million in revenue bonds. That money funded a $5.3 million project to build a 155,000-square-foot liquid cargo dock. New Eagle Ford Shale oil pipelines are under construction, and a general purpose container dock is also being completed.
Robert Loeb, finance chairman at the port, said the port started taxing property owners in 2000.
"It's always been our intent that the taxpayer pay the least amount they could possibly pay, and we still go by that," he said. "What we're doing is we're steadily dropping the rate as our revenues have increased."
Bonds that have paid for improvements - including the new docks - were customer, not taxpayer, supported, he said.
"We expect the port to be a stronger and stronger generator of revenue, jobs and taxes for the citizens of Victoria," Loeb said. "We've had significant growth in the past three or four years. We think it's just going to jump off from here."
Victoria County Judge Don Pozzi said the navigation district commissioners have done an outstanding job with the port.
He applauded the district for its contribution to economic development that affects the local, state and national economies.
"Keep up the good work," Pozzi said. "What a job, what a report."