Open Your Wallets, Burien – New $10 License Tab Fee Approved For Streets

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by Ralph Nichols

Burien City Council members voted 5-2 on April 26 to put the brakes on deteriorating streets – using a new $10 annual license tab fee to help pay for the ongoing roadwork.

“Future generations are going to thank you for this, I guarantee it,” City Manager Mike Martin told the lawmakers after the action, which creates a Transportation Benefit District in Burien.

The $10 license tab fee – the maximum amount that can be imposed by law without asking voters for permission – will be assessed on vehicles registered in the city.

It will generate $300,000 annually to fund part of the cost of a 20-year, $19.4 million program to restore Burien’s streets with a 2-inch asphalt overlay, which will maintain them at an average Pavement Condition Index of 80 percent.

The current condition of city streets is an average of 68 percent, with all of the city’s streets needing work.

And, Public Works Director Larry Blanchard reminded council members, the cost of repairing streets increases “exponentially” compared to the cost of maintaining them in good condition.

“The time is now to buy these [street maintenance] services,” declared Councilman Gordon Shaw before the council’s vote.

“Ten dollars is the right amount” for the license tab fee, said Mayor Joan McGilton. “We need to get started now while construction prices are probably as good as we’re going to get.”

Joining McGilton and Shaw in voting yes were Deputy Mayor Rose Clark and council members Jack Block Jr., Rose Clark and Kathy Keene.

Brian Bennett and Lucy Krawkowiak voted no.

“We need to acknowledge these are tough economic times” and a $10 fee would “be a hardship” for some vehicle owners, Bennett said.

A new $10 license tab fee will help pay to repair roads like this, located at SW 158th between Ambaum Blvd. and 1st Ave South.

Krakowiak opposed the ordinance even after saying that “cars should pay for the use of streets.”

But, countered Block, “the sooner we get going, the sooner we can bring our roads up to industrialized-world standards,” noting that Burien does not want its streets to deteriorate to “third-world” conditions like some in Seattle are.

He also argued that tapping the city’s Capital Projects Reserve Fund “is totally appropriate” to maintain infrastructure.

Funding for street maintenance “has slowly eroded … to the point where [it] has been stopped until adequate funding is restored,” Blanchard told council members.

And “not overlaying streets can only continue for a few years, then repair costs of streets will exponentially increase up to10 times the cost of normal repair to the point that the city cannot afford to replace the 263 lane miles of streets.”

As a result of the council action, the city will spend $8.6 million through 2011 to bring its street system up to an average Pavement Condition Index of 80-plus percent. Actual road work could begin later this construction season.

Following this work, which will resurface many of the city’s major arterials, it will spend $600,000 a year to maintain the streets – minimizing what Blanchard called “the extraordinary cost of rebuilding failed streets.”

The initial $8.6 million phase of this ongoing project will be funded by bonds that will be issued by the city late this summer.

A 20-year, $650,000 annual debt service and the annual $600,000 maintenance work will be paid from several sources:

  • $750,000 in annual savings by having Burien staff and equipment doing surface water management and street maintenance that currently is done by King County;
  • $100,000 from the Capital Projects Reserve Fund;
  • $100,000 from in-lieu fees assessed Seattle City Light customers;
  • And the $300,000 from license tab fees assessed through the new Transportation Benefit District.

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9 Responses to “Open Your Wallets, Burien – New $10 License Tab Fee Approved For Streets”
  1. Rob says:

    Well guess I am gonna have to sell some cars now.

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  2. Coverofnight says:

    ……and so it begins – the slow erosion of your paycheck with countless nickel-and-dime fees/taxes that our elected officials will impose with no citizen input; because they can! “Future generations are going to thank you for this, I guarantee it,” City Manager Mike Martin said. OK, I’ll drink to that.

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  3. Greg Fox says:

    At least Burien will know what the $10.00 is for. In Des Moines, since they are so strapped for cash, the money goes into the general fund to be pissed away on whatever.
    The city is saying that the extra fee will generate money to keep things afloat for a time at least. If the city’s did not raise the fee, the county could have and then there would be no benefit at all. As it is now, only one $10.00 fee can be added (stay tuned as I am sure that they will milk this and raise feees again) so it goes to either the city of the county. Better the city…

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  4. napavine says:

    Lets keep Brian and Lucy and let the rest go. It’s only Ten bucks, but they did not ask. Thats just like stealing it from me. Keep your grubby little fingers out of my pocket!!

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  5. Really? says:

    A previous comment pointed out that as we pay for basic services, part of what we expect from our government is appropriate budgeting to MAINTAIN our basic infrastructure. Inability to maintain or at least re-prioritize the basic services indicates our decision making process is broken. We need to ask: Why was our basic services allowed to run to failure? How was this allowed to take place? Did the council not listen to public works?

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  6. Really? says:

    By the way, a two inch asphalt overlay placed over pavement that has broken and “allegatored”, will only last maybe two years at best. To restore our streets, the asphalt must be removed down to the compacted gravel base course while hoping the base hasn’t degraded, which means a more expensive replacement. My point is, the longer you wait, or run to failure, the more costly the fix. Why did we wait so long?

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  7. Ralph Nichols says:

    “Lets keep … Lucy” – for keeping the lid on what Burien residents must pay in taxes?

    Consider, then, this little-know fact: Last fall, expressing concern for local taxpayers in tough economic times, she voted against increasing Burien’s property tax by a fraction of one percent, which would have raised those taxes by just a few dollars a month.

    But in the same month – and, as I recall, the same week – that she opposed the marginal Burien tax increase, Lucy – also a King County Library trustee, removed from the scrutiny of mics and cameras at home – voted without hesitation to increase the library system’s property tax by one percent, thereby increasing the property tax that Burien residents must pay.

    Then, at this Monday night’s council meeting, she argued that joining King County’s new program for animal control was the best way to go, both for cost and for service. Never mind the obvious facts that Burien would have to pay a lot more to the county to get a lot less from the county.

    And when the council was discussing vehicle license tab fees as a way to pay for the street asphalt overlay program, before voting no on the ordinance that established a $10 fee, Lucy actually called for a $20 fee to provide revenue for that program without tapping other city funds.

    (I left this out of my story on that council discussion because it was a suggestion soon discarded and had no bearing on the result of the eventual vote.)

    Kinda makes you wonder what it’s all about.

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  8. Jay says:

    Surprised they didn’t suggest “Toll Roads” as well… guess that will be next!

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  9. Rainycity says:

    Annexation for taxtion huh? Just one more reason why I didn`t want to be annexed.
    The Burien town council needs to go.

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