Burien council passes budget on 4-3 vote

By a 4-3 vote, Burien lawmakers approved Nov. 5 a 2013-2014 budget balanced by taking $1 million out of reserves.

The council members had generally agreed on the outlines of the budget at their Oct. 22 meeting but two lawmakers asked to delay final consideration. Budget adoption had been fast tracked to accommodate medical and travel plans of some council members.

But Councilmember Bob Edgar said a vote on Nov. 5 would be premature with the annexation of North Highline being decided at an election the next date. In early returns, North Highline voters strongly rejected the annexation measure.

Councilmember Gerald Robison replied that even if annexation is approved, it would be several months before it went into effect. The budget must be approved by the end of the year.

Councilmember Jack Block Jr. objected to voting on the budget without first seeing a final draft.

Lawmakers received a preliminary budget on Oct. 1. Changes have been made as council members work through budget decisions.

Finance Director Kim Krause said printing a final draft before approval would be very labor intensive. City Manager Mike Martin said a final draft has not been printed before adoption in his six years in Burien.

Councilmember Joan McGilton said the council has held lengthy discussions on the budget.

“Any delay is not in the best interest of Burien citizens,” McGilton declared.

Mayor Brian Bennett, Deputy Mayor Rose Clark, McGilton and Robison voted in favor of budget adoption. Councilmember Lucy Krakowiak, Edgar and Block voted against.

The budget totals $72 million in all funds with $44 million for the general operating fund.

Lawmakers also approved some revenue sources.

They agreed unanimously to set the property tax rate at $1.60 per $1,000 of assessed value. That is expected to raise $6.3 million for next year.

Lawmakers also increased the commercial parking tax from $1 to $3 per transaction for airport park ‘n fly lots off Des Moines Memorial Drive. The rate matches what the city of SeaTac charges.

The council also increased the Puget Sound Energy electric utility tax from 3 percent to 6 percent.

Staffers had proposed a similar hike for Seattle City Light that would have forestalled the city from dipping into reserves to balance the budget. However, lawmakers noted City Light customers are already paying an additional assessment for underground wires along First Avenue South. PSE customers are not charged for the undergrounding project.

Council members also agreed to raise surface water fees in a two-step process to handle upgrades mandated by new federal regulations. The fees will go up 12 percent in 2013 and another 12 percent in 2015.

“Every city is increasing surface water management fees,” McGilton said. “We must comply (with the federal regulations.)”

Lawmakers also began what could turn out to be long and contentious discussions on north Burien zoning map amendments as well as 2012 comprehensive plan text and map amendments.

Interim Community Development director David Johanson noted north Burien was annexed into the city in 2010. The city’s last major update was in 2003.

Johanson said north Burien is 84 percent residential with a substantial amount of multifamily housing. The original Burien is 89 percent residential.

Among the plan recommendations is that the west side of the Ambaum Boulevard corridor in north Burien revert to high-density multi-family housing, according to Johanson. The area already is already a transit corridor.

While there will be not many proposed changes along north Burien’s First Avenue South, the city will focus on higher density around the Boulevard Park commercial area served by transit, he noted.

Robison said he supports notifying individual property owners when their property is slated for down zoning. Johanson said that could be done.

Instead of having to prove a new development would be “a benefit to the community, the standard should be the proposed change is not “a net loss to the community,” Robison said.

Krakowiak said the city should keep an eye out for “McMansions,” homes that don’t fit the neighborhood or take up too much of the property.

Edgar said he wants to make clear that if the Ruth Dykeman Children’s Center vacates its property, the land could be used for public access but not “physical” access to the lake.

The council will have further discussions on the plan at its Nov. 19 meeting.

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