LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Is The City Of Burien About To Increase Property Taxes?

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To The Editor of the B-town Blog:

On October 29, 2009; The Seattle Times ran a story on the $25 Burien Vehicle Tax/Proposition 1 that is currently on the November ballot. When the reporter asked why a vehicle tax was being used, the mayor of Burien (McGilton) said that “A property tax wasn’t considered out of respect for Burien’s relatively conservative voters, less affluent than in levy happy Seattle”. However, eight days prior to that story, McGilton and the city had done the opposite and sent a news release to the local newspapers and the B-town Blog announcing a Public Hearing on Nov. 9th to solicit public comments on a proposed, increased property tax (of up to 1%) for Burien. Before voting on Tuesday, November 3rd, every citizen in Burien should question what the heck is really going on.

When I attended the July City of Burien Council Meeting/Public Hearing on the $25 Burien Vehicle Tax/Proposition 1 (for sidewalks and bike paths), I didn’t plan on writing the statement against the $25 Burien Vehicle Tax/Proposition 1. However when no information was presented to the public about: the project costs, the amount to be collected from this tax, what other grants/sources could help with the projects, how much these project streets were actually used, I was frustrated. There were no sketches/diagrams of what the finished work might look like. The City quoted statistics from a 2008 Burien Citizen Survey that were inaccurate.

Citizens asked questions. The City didn’t answer. After the Public Hearing, the Council immediately voted to put the Vehicle Tax on the November ballot. In depressed economic times, the City was asking citizens to rubber stamp a new tax.

The City stated at the Hearing the tax will last two years. That is not true. Under the rules for Transportation Benefit Districts, the tax remains in place until the project is completed and paid for. The City does not have the authority to promise otherwise.

The City had not surveyed the use patterns of the project areas. Both 8th Ave and South 136th have light use by both pedestrians and bikes. Only 13% of the respondents to the 2008 Burien Citizen Survey who live in these areas thought there was a need to improve sidewalks and bike paths.

Some of the endorsers/supporters of the tax can’t answer basic questions about the tax. Many of the endorsers do not live in Burien and will not be paying the tax. The campaign signs are being funded by a legislator from Vashon Island and her aide. In the Seattle Times article, McGilton referred to this vehicle tax as a “good test case”. So, what’s up?

Joe Fitzgibbons suggested on the Transportation Choices Coalition website that this is a trial balloon to see if Burien can get residents to vote for this type of a tax. Other cities in the state are watching to see if they can use the same strategy to get new taxes from their residents. I’m not happy to be part of this trial balloon experiment. What am I being tested for? Is it to see if the City of Burien can get a $25 Vehicle Tax and then impose a property tax increase as well on its citizens?

Burien is one of the highest taxed cities in King County. I strongly urge the citizens of Burien to vote “NO” against Proposition 1/$25 Burien Vehicle Tax or other new taxes until Burien improves how it presents the need for new taxes to its citizens.

– Chestine Edgar

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Have something you’d like to say? Then email us your “Letter to the Editor” by clicking here. Be sure to include your real name and a way to contact you, and, pending our review (for libel, etc.), we’ll most likely post it. Otherwise, feel free to leave a Comment below…]

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2 Responses to “LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Is The City Of Burien About To Increase Property Taxes?”
  1. Stephen Lamphear says:

    Ooops — finishing my comment after striking the wrong key!

    The city council, sans disguise, can increase property taxes by 1% WITHOUT a vote of the people.

    While the country and the city are in a deep recession, public needs and the costs of providing them generally do not go down. Sales taxes from the auto dealers historically supported our quality public services — no more.

    I wholly support increasing property taxes by the 1% allowed by (a stupid) law. But let’s not rebuke the voters by imposing the $20 fee available to the council.

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    • Stephen Lamphear says:

      So, I’ll try to recreate my lost comments.

      It’s unfortunate that both the Voters Pamphlet statements for and against Burien’s resoundingly defeated $25 vehicle license fee were either misleading or wrong.

      Opposition statements were simply wrong: Burien’s property tax ranks 19th in King County, not 2nd (out of 39 cities); the fire station bond was proposed by Fire District #2, not the city of Burien; and Burien has a balanced budget (deficit budgets are unlawful). It would be nice if tax opponents would stick to the truth rather than wild fantasy.

      Support statements were misleading: while Burien’s property tax is not among the county’s highest, Burien imposes a host of other taxes that change the picture — a 6% tax on utilities (electicity, natural gas, telephone, cell phone, cable TV , internet), a franchise fee on garbage charges, a business tax on gross income (no deductions), a business license fee, a parking tax, a rental car tax, an admissions tax, and many more. Neighboring cities impose none of these or lower taxes. During my 8 years on the council, I voted for all of them. So, the tax matter is not so cut and dried.

      As to the 1% property tax increase being considered by the city council, that is the limit the city can impose WITHOUT a vote of the people — a previous gift from Tim Eyman and the tax haters [council authority used to be 6%]. In the guise of the stealth Transportation Benefit District, the city council is also empowered to impose a $20 vehicle license fee WITHOUT voter approval.

      The price of democracy is eternal vigilance and I urge every voter to pay attention — get the facts and cut the fantasy.

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