Port Townsend set to OK $24 million budget

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The city faced several obstacles in the development of the 2013 budget, but the panic brought about by a $200,000 shortfall in October has passed.

“We’ve turned the corner,” said City Manager David Timmons.

“Things are getting better, from my perspective,” he said.

“We are starting to see a lot more positive signs.”

The City Council is expected to approve a $28,370,795 budget with some minor revisions at a meeting set for Dec. 17.

Although final decisions have not been made, voters may see financial measures on ballots in 2013.

Those could include an $8 million library bond issue and perhaps one requesting the creation of a municipal parks district that not only will help pay for parks but also be a funding source for the public pool, according to Mayor David King.

The city also would like to ask voters to approve city annexation into East Jefferson Fire-Rescue — which would create a new property tax. But that probably won’t happen in 2013, King said.

“We need to wait until the property valuations in the city are in line with those in the county,” he said.

“If the values aren’t in line, then the city voters aren’t getting value for their tax dollars.”

The original plan was for the council to consider approval of the 2013 budget Dec. 3, but that will most likely be postponed due to the medical leave of Budget Director Michael Legarsky and the vacation schedule of acting budget director Corena Stern.

Stern returns from vacation Monday and may not have time to add final numbers to the budget prior to the meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 540 Water St.

“Everything’s done, but right now, I don’t have anyone who can input the changes properly,” Timmons said.

Part of the source of Timmons’ optimism is what he sees as an increased interest in downtown development and expansion by developers.

Also adding to the bright picture is a $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for infrastructure improvements, which Timmons learned about this week.

In addition, announced layoffs were not as extensive as expected. Two of the threatened jobs will be restored.

Those laid off now include one engineer, one engineering support person, two parks employees and one pool employee.

One finance department employee took a voluntary layoff, while the police department sustained a resignation when Sgt. Ed Green accepted the chief’s position with the Oak Harbor Police Department.

Timmons plans to meet with Port Townsend Police Department Chief Conner Daily on Thursday to discuss the filling of Green’s position, which will be done from within.

Once promoted, the new sergeant will create a patrol vacancy that won’t be filled until the middle of 2013, Timmons said.

As for the infrastructure grant, the $2.6 million will be distributed among the extension of Howard Street from Sims Way to Discovery Road, due in 2014, and two sidewalk projects at Landes Court and Sheridan Street scheduled for 2013.

The city still needs to find a funding source for the $9.9 million water filtration facility designed to remove cryptosporidium, a bacteria that causes digestive problems.

Construction of the new facility must be completed by 2015, with much of the cost to be made up through utility rates, according to Mayor David King, although there is a $3 million low-interest loan that is available to defray some of the costs.

King said the $200,000 tax shortfall resulting from sales tax money going to the county instead of the city due to a reporting error was “not insignificant” and something that took time to recover from.

“We don’t have money to support the pool, and we don’t have money for a lot of basic services,” King said.

“Neither the city nor the county has the money to do what we want, which is why we are working together,” he said.

“There is always room for improvement, and I’m not happy with the budget situation, but for the time being, our budget is sound.”

Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 29. 2012 5:57PM
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