Port Townsend approves supplemental budget

USDA rural designation may jeopardize funding

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council has approved more than $4.7 million in supplemental appropriations to the 2023 budget, much of it carry-forward expenses from last year’s budget.

“The carry-forward budget for the capital is a large part of the carry-forward supplemental request,” said Connie Anderson, director of Finance and Technology Services, on Monday, when the council approved the appropriations.

“Also included in this supplemental is a request to utilize consultants. Those consultants are in need to help extend our staffing and effectively get the work done.”

Port Townsend has had to rely on consultants as the city faces a historically high vacancy rate, particularly in the engineering department.

Other appropriations in the supplemental budget cover the plans to overhaul the Port Townsend Golf Course and Mountain View Commons.

Council members had previously discussed the budget items at their April 17 meeting.

Growing pains

Also at the Monday meeting, council members directed City Manager John Mauro to draft a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding the city’s eligibility for Rural Development programs.

Every five years, USDA reassesses eligibility areas and the city received notice that Port Townsend was currently under review, Mauro said.

Port Townsend’s population recently passed 10,000 — albeit just barely; the latest Census data puts the population at 10,306 — which is one of the criteria for USDA’s assessment.

The city and its partners — namely Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County — rely on USDA Rural Development programs for funding and losing eligibility would negatively impact the city, Mauro said.

Council members voted unanimously to have Mauro draft a letter to USDA to be reviewed at the next business meeting.

“I think it is fairly apparent that we should submit public comment on this,” said council member Amy Howard. “I think that focusing on the complex physical terrain of the Puget Sound region and why we are not an easy commute to any of the metropolitan statistical areas.”

Council member Libby Urner Wennstrom noted Port Townsend’s rural designation also impacted services at the local hospital, Jefferson Healthcare hospital.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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