Port’s ballot language on expansion challenged as imprecise for voters

Update:  On Wednesday, Judge Karen Moore decided in favor of the Port.

How officials worded the Port of Everett’s Aug. 6 ballot measure to enlarge its boundaries faces a challenge of being not precise enough.

Snohomish resident Morgan Davis filed in court last week seeking to modify the language from “Shall the Port of Everett be enlarged to include all areas of Snohomish County not currently within the Port of Everett, the Port of Edmonds the City of Edmonds” and so forth to the wording “Shall the Port of Everett Taxing District be enlarged to include all areas of Snohomish County; except the Port of Edmonds; the City of Edmonds” and so forth.

Davis also asks the Port to publish its taxing capability of up to 45 cents per $1,000 in the measure to voters. (The Port’s 2024 tax rate is 19 cents per $1,000 and is charged to all property owners living within port boundaries.)

The port says the title is correct. “The Port is confident that the County Prosecutor’s Office prepared a legally compliant ballot title that clearly informs the voter of the measure on the ballot,” port spokesperson Kate Anderson said.

The case is set to open in county superior court May 15 before Judge Karen Moore.

Davis is one of the three members in the con committee who’ll write an opposition statement distributed in voter pamphlets.

Most ports are already countywide. The Port of Everett’s footprint is largely Everett and Mukilteo.

One reason the Port of Everett seeks to expand boundaries is because its current geographic size means it has a small tax base of 120,000 residents. The small tax base limits its ability to get large municipal bonds for its projects, even though the Port has the ability to repay the debt service, Port CEO Lisa Lefeber told the Snohomish City Council in April. (The bonds are backed by tax revenue.)