City of Port Townsend releases first annual report

Finances, housing and flexibility highlighted

Port Townsend City Manager John Mauro.

Port Townsend City Manager John Mauro.

PORT TOWNSEND — The City of Port Townsend ended 2020 with revenue slightly above expectations while it cut spending, according to the city’s inaugural annual report.

Budgeted revenues were about $36.4 million. Actual revenues ended at about $36.9 million.

Budgeted expenditures were about $43.9 million. Actual expenditures were about $35.5 million, according to the 16-page report released last week.

“While 2020 presented extraordinary financial challenges to the City as an organization, early and decisive action helped mitigate the worse impacts and helped us end the year in the same stable financial condition that we started in,” the report said.

Collaboration among various governmental bodies in Jefferson County increased in 2020. The report noted in particular the formation of the Intergovernmental Collaborative Group (ICG) to address COVID-19 impacts, as well as other joint efforts concerning economic development and affordable housing.

The City identified six lessons officials learned from 2020 and challenges the year posed:

• Partnerships prevail — but can slow things down, it said, noting that well-executed partnerships like the ICG allows officials to handle complex issues, but that working together takes extra time and effort from officials.

• Community goals are challenged by structural problems outside of direct city control, such as housing affordability and supply, the report said.

It noted that, while housing is a priority for city officials, the required funding is not in place, and unexpected financial impacts such as the about $1.8 million additional subsidy needed for the Cherry Street project strains budgeting and community expectations.

• Expect infrastructure to fail — eventually: Port Townsend has old infrastructure, which was highlighted by the water main break on Water Street in late 2020, and officials need to identify new revenue sources and interact with the community to learn the ability and willingness to invest in future infrastructure.

• Good people make a difference — if they can be found and kept. The report said that recruitment of quality talent for city staff is difficult with cost and availability of housing in the area.

While some major recruitments occurred or began in 2020, vacancies in various departments still exist.

“Port Townsend is committed to recruiting, training and retaining excellent staff, despite reasonable limits to compensation and benefits,” the report said.

• Measurement matters. The city lacked some baselines in 2020 that prevented accurate interpretations of performance.

• Expect the unexpected. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the 2020 work plan became irrelevant and officials had to re-prioritize commitments to continue to deliver core services instead of developing new initiatives.

Identifying core priorities and building flexibility into future work plans could facilitate adaptability.

“No one could have anticipated the challenges of 2020,” the “Lessons Learned” portion of the report said. “We made decisions and took actions to the best of our abilities, but missteps are inevitable.

“With the right attitude and courage for honest introspection, missteps are also an opportunity for significant learning and improvement.”

Looking forward for 2021, the goal of the city “isn’t to survive or even to recover; it’s to build back, bounce forward and thrive.

“It will take time, and 2021 will likely be another transition year, but it will be a transition forward and a step toward a better, fairer and more sustainable community for us all.”

More information about the city’s projects and work are included in the report, which can be read at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-PTAnnualReport.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].

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