City Manager Mike Martin Exploring Ways To Opt Out If I-1033 Passes
Burien City Manager Mike Martin is concerned â€“ very concerned â€“ about the likelihood that Initiative 1033 will pass in Novemberâ€™s general election. So much, in fact, that heâ€™s exploring the possibility of a local referendum that could exempt Burien from the requirements of this tax-limitation ballot measure should it win approval statewide.
â€œIf I-1033 passes, it will stop the city cold in its tracks,â€ Martin told The B-Town Blog. â€œThe progress weâ€™ve been making will just plod along if we no longer have the tools to build on what weâ€™ve done so far. Theyâ€™ll go away and thatâ€™s a fact.â€
According to the ballot measure summary, I-1033 â€œwould limit growth in state revenues â€¦ and limit growth in county and city revenues. The limit would be adjusted based on annual growth in inflation and populationâ€¦. The limit would exclude voter-approved revenue increases. Revenues above the limit would reduce property tax levies.â€
Burien City Council members voted 3-1 on Oct. 5 to oppose I-1033, with three opponents of the initiative absent.
Earlier, city Finance Director Tabatha Miller told them that restrictions imposed by I-1033 would be â€œproblematic for Burienâ€ because â€œit does not take into account commercial growth like that envisioned in the Northeast Development Areaâ€¦. In essence, any commercial growth in the NERA or elsewhere which increased the Cityâ€™s revenues could not be used to provide the supporting city services, but instead would decrease the next yearâ€™s property taxes.â€
â€œIf people want smaller government, we can give them that,â€ Martin said. â€œBut that will have consequences in the way we serve our residentsâ€¦. Itâ€™s safe to say that we would slow down or stop major projects in the worksâ€ â€“ including new development in the Northeast Redevelopment Area, street and sidewalk work, and discretionary programs from parks to senior services.
â€œThereâ€™s a real potential for closing the city down for all or part of one day a week,â€ he added. â€œThat is not being punitive, it is being responsiveâ€ if the ballot measure passes.
To sidestep these impacts of I-1033, Martin is considering proposing to the council â€œa referendum that would allow the city to opt outâ€ of its requirements.
While this proposition allows voters to approve property tax levy lid lifts locally, Martin noted it also could impact grants and other sources of funding not covered by a levy lid lift.
That, he explained, is why heâ€™s exploring the possibility of a referendum â€“ despite the fact he isnâ€™t sure whether a city legally can exempt itself from a voter-passed law. Currently heâ€™s investigating the legality of such a move.
â€œIf itâ€™s possible for the city to opt out, I will propose to council that they place such a referendum on the February (special election) ballot.â€