PORTSMOUTH — City Manager John Bohenko plans to defer the Prescott Park Arts Festival’s required $20,000 annual fee to the city because the festival suffered through a rainy summer season.

“The city recognizes that exigent circumstances (such as extraordinary wet weather conditions or other emergency causing prolonged disruption to operations) may occur, which significantly impact the licensee’s ability to pay (the fee),” Bohenko said in a memo to the City Council, which is meeting Monday night. “Accordingly, the city manager is authorized to negotiate a lower figure for the affected year.”

Bohenko added he planned to defer the festival’s fee for fiscal year 2019, which runs from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019, until the end of PPAF’s 2019 season.

Bohenko’s decision comes about a month after PPAF Executive Director Ben Anderson told the Portsmouth Herald the festival expected to bring in about $250,000 less in revenue during its 2018 season than it does during a typical year. Anderson at the time blamed the loss of revenue on “a lot of poorly timed rain” and the fact its plays and concerts are performed on an outdoor stage without a cover.

“We lost roughly 40 percent of our concerts, and we canceled 14 of our musicals out of 36, so that’s roughly 40 percent as well,” Anderson said. “We had awful luck, not having a stage cover. This season really just shows how risky that is for a festival like ours.”

That’s why Anderson wants the city to reconsider an offer made by the festival for it to pay to build a new permanent stage with a cover.

“This festival has been here for 44 years," Anderson said. "It’s really one of the only festivals of its kind and one of the only offerings that does not have a stage covering. I would love to see a permanent stage with a cover that everyone could take great pride in to admire, both when they’re here for a show or when the festival’s not in season.”

In addition, the festival has received a pledge from a single donor, who Anderson would not name, to pay for the entire project.

Bohenko has not yet responded publicly to that offer.

Anderson, along with PPAF board of trustees chairman Jameson French, recently sent a letter to the city asking the city to waive this year’s fee. They stated “without a stage covering, the festival is instantly at a loss whenever it rains, and forced to cancel.”

“We’re required to pay our acts, actors, staff, rental equipment, etc., without key revenues like gate donations and food sales,” the PPAF officials also stated.

The festival ended up seeing a 13 percent drop in revenues, most of which came in the form of 33 percent lower gate donations. The weather, French and Anderson said, resulted in a $202,900 loss in the 2018 season.

Strawbery Banke, which is across the street from the city-owned Prescott Park, saw its parking revenues drop 51 percent during the arts festival’s 2018 season, it said.

Waiving the fee, Anderson and French stated in the letter, will help the festival “continue to provide the community at large with accessible, quality arts and cultural experiences in Prescott Park.”

As popular as the festival is, if it had a couple of seasons in a row like the 2018 season, it could mark the end of what has become an institution in Portsmouth, Anderson stated previously.

“The reality is that reserve only really came into existence five years ago," he said. "Before that time if this season had happened 10 years ago, we would be done, we would be toast."