Burien Council Set To Approve 2011-2013 Biennial Budget Monday Night
Burien City Council members are expected to approve tonight (Monday, Nov. 22) the city’s 2011-12 biennial budget along with the property tax levy for next year.
The new general fund budget projects $52.7 million in expenditures, based on $57.1 million in anticipated revenues.
Following a public hearing on the proposed budget during the council’s last meeting (Nov. 8) – at which no one testified – Councilman Jack Block Jr. observed, “We have a $1 million surplus this year … we are blessed with riches right now.”
Unlike most cities in the region, Burien is not laying off staff – and will even give its employees a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment. They have gone without raises for two years.
The surplus “speaks well to the management of council and staff,” Block said. He suggested using this money to purchase bonds, now at historically low rates, to help fund future capital projects.
But, noted City Manager Mike Martin, while there is “wisdom to the notion” of putting the surplus to work, it is also “council policy to set aside 10 percent of the budget” as a reserve.
“We’re nervous. We just don’t know where this economy’s going to do,” Martin said. “This gives us an extra cushion.”
Some prices are already edging up as a result of the Federal Reserve’s recent decision to increase the money supply – using inflation to stimulate the economy.
At the same time, there is widespread concern that if Congress doesn’t extend the Bush tax cuts, the nation could experience a “double-dip” recession.
But, Martin later told The B-Town Blog, Burien is in a good financial position to withstand, at least for the foreseeable future, either an inflationary spiral or the impact of a second recession.
“Very much so,” he said. “We have sufficient reserves and fund balances to withstand a pretty hard whack. I would say for the duration of the two-year budget.”
The city placed itself in this position – making Burien the exception, according the Association of Washington Cities – “not by cutting back on services, but my not taking on a whole lot of new initiatives,” Martin added.
Should Burien take a really big hit from the economy, he would urge the council to revisit the budget and make cuts as needed at that time.
For now, however, “I’m just very pleased that we’re in a situation where we don’t have to have layoffs, don’t have to cut the budget, don’t have to raise taxes.
“I’m very grateful for that. It’s not by accident. It’s the result of council policy and careful attention to detail. It’s a damn good city – it really is.”
The interim city Finance Director told council members during the recent public hearing the 2011 property tax levy is less than he projected earlier due to updated assessment numbers from King County.
As a result, the new assessment will be $1.56 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
“We do have the capacity to increase this assessment to the statutory $1.60 per $1,000, but staff is not recommending that,” Martin said. The property tax burden on Burien residents “is very low compared to other cities.”
But, he cautioned, property taxpayers will see only a slight decrease in their tax because the county, state and special-purpose taxing districts – school, fire, water, sewer – also impose property taxes.