Nora Mitchell

Nora Mitchell

Port Townsend proposes lodging tax allocations

City Council expected to pass 2020 budget next month

PORT TOWNSEND — The City Council moved one step closer to adopting its 2020 budget with a public hearing that included a proposal on how to spend lodging tax dollars.

In addition to approving supplemental appropriations for 2019 and the city’s six-year capital improvement plan, Port Townsend City Council members also passed a 1 percent property tax increase Monday night, although the combined levy rate will drop by nearly half in 2020 due to the city’s annexation into East Jefferson Fire-Rescue territory earlier this year.

The council is on track to approve its full budget Dec. 2.

“As I’ve grown to understand this process and actually understand the budget better, which I’ve done over the last two weeks, it’s clear to me there is a degree of meticulousness and a degree of sound financial principles that underpin this budget,” said City Manager John Mauro, who started his job Nov. 1.

“The finance team won’t say that themselves because they’re humble and they just get the job done, but I want to position it as a document I feel very comfortable with.”

Nora Mitchell, who served as the interim city manager from July through October, said only minimal changes have been in the 2020 budget figures compared with the preliminary hearing earlier this month.

One of the significant impacts is the levy rate, which combines the general property tax with the Port Townsend Public Library and Mountain View Commons levies within city limits.

While the total assessed value has increased to more than $1.86 billion in the city — $200 million more than last year’s figure of $1.65 billion — the city will not collect either its fire lid lift or emergency medical services levies this year based on annexation, Mitchell said.

The total amount the city will not collect is $908,724, Mitchell said.

Instead, it will bank that capacity next year and phase it back in over three years, one-third at a time, starting in 2021, according to its agreement with the fire district.

The other levies will go up 1 percent, a figure capped by the state Legislature. The council voted 6-1 to pass the ordinance, with Bob Gray dissenting.

The city’s total levy collection will drop to $2,764,000 in 2020 from $5,100,303 this year. That represents an elimination of more than $1.6 million from the fire lid lift collected this year in addition to $774,000 from the EMS levy.

The proposed lodging tax budget includes $534,500 in revenue and more than $563,000 in expenses, drawing the ending fund balance down to about $217,000.

The city is proposing to spend $303,000 for the Chamber of Jefferson County to operate the visitor center, $9,500 more than this year. It also has $50,000 allocated for winter downtown lighting in a tourism infrastructure project.

Both City Council member Michelle Sandoval, who attended via teleconference, and Mayor Deborah Stinson thanked Mitchell for putting together the proposed budget from the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.

“I know we all have the actual budget there, and we will follow up in January with the chamber to get more specifics,” Sandoval said.

“The Lodging Tax committee put in a lot of work getting the budget to where it is now. It was hard work to choose what to not spend money on.”

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected]

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