Portland City Council approves TSA contract, weighs property tax relief fund

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PORTLAND — The federal Transportation Security Administration will continue to base its statewide operations at the Portland International Jetport for the next five years.

The City Council approved the lease Monday without discussion. The council also got a first look at a proposal to create a property tax stabilization fund.

The TSA lease will generate nearly $300,000 in revenue for the Jetport in the first year and increase annually by 3 percent over the next four years.

The TSA will continue to occupy the more than 6,650 square feet of space it currently uses, plus an additional 1,750 square feet.

Jetport Director Paul Bradbury said the TSA has been leasing space at the airport for its administrative offices since the agency was created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Two of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Al-Omari, passed through the Jetport en route to Boston.

“The leadership – the federal security director for the entire state – all that happens here at the airport,” Bradbury said. “It’s a lease that doesn’t necessarily have to be at the airport, but they have chosen to do that.”

The Jetport will receive more than $1.4 million from the TSA over the next five years.

“As you can see this is an important financial component for us when you add up those numbers,” Bradbury said.

Financial policy

Three new financial policies were presented to the council Monday, including a proposal to create a property tax stabilization reserve fund. 

According to a memo to the council, the fund would be used in difficult budget years, where non-property tax revenues fall.

When that occurs, city officials can only cut programs or increase property taxes to make ends meet.

The stabilization fund would give city officials a third option, but not annually and only in cases of “financial distress.”

“For example,” the memo states, “in years such as recently when non-property tax revenue decreases the (fund) may be used to preserve services that would otherwise need to be changed or eliminated to meet the revenue loss.

One quarter of future increases to the city’s fund balance would be used to capitalize the fund. The memo states that over a four year period, the fund would accumulate $2 million.

A date for the final reading of the proposal has not been set.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings