LETTER: ‘We Don’t Need a New Tax to Change Public’s Perception on Crime’


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The April 6 edition of The Highline Times carried an article on “Kids and Cops” stating that City Manager Mike Martin plans to ask Burien residents to fund a tax increase of $1.8 – $2.3 million for an additional 8-10 police officers and another $500,000 for discretionary public safety funding, in hope of “changing the public’s perception of high crime rates in Burien.”

Martin states that “Burien’s problems are no worse than neighboring jurisdictions,” and names other local areas with higher crime rates. If the money is simply to “change the public’s perception,” then we don’t need a new tax with additional police to do that. Instead perhaps a public relations campaign promoting Burien as a “safe” community with statistics to back it up. Especially since in the article Police Chief Scott Kimerer said “even with the extra officers, Burien encompasses too large an area to make patrolling residential neighborhoods a plausible idea.”

Also, since it appears annexation of White Center is certain, won’t the additional annual $5 million in funding provide for the additional police officers needed? Mr. Martin has proposed, after two years, shifting $300,000-$400,000 of the funding for police to some of Burien’s elementary schools, including those in White Center and North Highline.

I agree with Lucy Krakowiak, who stated educational reforms should be left to the Highline School District. We have a district-wide levy, which includes ALL of our schools and the citizens of Burien have been very generous in supporting our schools, even in tough economic times. Let’s give our new Superintendent some time to assess our district’s needs and determine how best to improve the performance of all students.

The list Mr. Martin mentioned – tutoring intervention, teacher training, parental involvement, a longer school day and holistic approaches such as nutrition and dental care, while important, should be addressed by the school district and PTAs, not the Burien City Council. They have enough to do with the challenges annexation will present to the city of Burien.

– Bonnie Moormeier
Burien, WA

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Comments

13 Responses to “LETTER: ‘We Don’t Need a New Tax to Change Public’s Perception on Crime’”
  1. William Forest says:

    I agree with the poster.. This is Martins underhanded way of squeezing more money in the form of taxes to cover the short fall of police coverage that will ensue if we annex white center.. Its a nice soundbite though.. Kids and Cops.. What the ? Flowers and cats?? Apparently he thinks the average Burienite is too stupid to see the disconnect…

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  2. Donna says:

    I have good friends in Seahurst, a block from my home, who were robbed yesterday early morning. Two doors were knocked down and many items stolen from their home, including televisions, computer equipment, toaster oven, and prescription medications. This really happened. It’s not just a perception that we have a crime problem in Burien. We’d appreciate it if our city officials would work with citizens to actually solve the problem. Ironically, this could result in better public relations than any fabricated P.R. campaign.

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  3. mike says:

    MARTIN: You must be kidding! Why would anyone want to pay more taxes to Burien? They have wasted money on screwed up paving jobs, gotten sued over another construction contract and lost. Seattle is willing to provide what? Three times more police for White Center annexation? Come on MARTIN! I live in Area Y. I’m sure if the rest of the residents of White Center, South Park and whatever would agree that Seattle is the better way to go.

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  4. Erik Robbins says:

    On the consent agenda from the last council meeting under approval of vouchers I noticed that the city of Burien has paid (from 3/15 – 4/2) $43,007.30 on something called Cops Technology Grant Exp. Is this part of the “Kids and Cops”?
    FYI from 3/15/2012 – 4/2/2012 the city spent a whopping $923,747.18 on a total of 95 transactions.

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    • William Forest says:

      The council is avoiding their fiduciary responsibility by not having an independent audit of the city books annually.. Its a case of the fox in charge of the hen house and the roosters are deaf dumb and blind.

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      • ATKMH says:

        They do have an independant annual audit, as required. You can find them on the City’s website.

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        • William Forest says:

          ATKMH

          I reviewed the 2010 period this audit looked at and found some red flags..
          First let me say that my day job has me involved in corporate audits so reviewing a annual or now it appears biannual State government audit of a city government which focuses on the process rather than examining the details ensures that all the requirements are met for statutory reporting. This type of audit which by itself will find any obvious or flagrant fiscal malfeasance, however, it does not in anyway expose or examine potential irregularities of actions taken within the statutory boundaries. It also leaves an incredible amount of wiggle room and in the case of city contracts and purchase orders many opportunities for creative accounting. Thats why an audit by a really independent and IMPARTIAL non government certified private firm is a much different and much more thorough examination.

          These deficiencies are stated right up front by the state and I quote, (btw its called CYA in case the audit itself is called into question.)

          “We do not express an opinion on the effectiveness of the City’s internal control over financial reporting.”
          “We have applied certain limited procedures, which consisted principally of inquiries of management regarding the methods of measurement and presentation of the required supplementary information. However, we did not audit the information and express no opinion on it.”

          There are some obvious red flags I noticed that need to be vetted or examined in a brighter light so to speak.

          I quote:
          ” As of year-end 2010 the City had $27.7 million in debt outstanding compared to $20 million last year”

          “Beginning in 2009 the City adopted a biennial budget. The second biennial budget for 2011 -2012 projects an 18% increase in resources over the previous biennium and a 19% increase in expenditures. These large increases are a result of the annexation which occurred in early 2010, which increased the population of the city by over 44%.”

          It will be interesting to see the actuals from these optimistic projections.. Also I find it odd that Martin can project these costs and revenues but is unable to come up with the projections for the white center annexation which he would have to state in a business plan which the city council has failed in their fiduciary responsibility to the residents by not required he provide this.

          I think going to a two year budget is a really bad idea as far as accountability goes because even if there are obvious flagrant irregularities we will not discover them for two years instead of what was previous an annual budget when we would find out the next year.
          It also puts more burden on the state to review twice as much data as they were doing before even if it was just a cursory statutory review it still reports the numbers.

          Interestingly enough the out of court settlement for 2.9 million dollars was not examined at all except to verify it was claimed and accrued.. The WHY is not part of the audit. and again I quote:

          “On June 6, 2011, the Burien City Council approved an out of court settlement agreement with the general contractor on the First Avenue South Street Project for $2.9 million. This settlement amount has been accrued to the financial statements and resolves this claim”

          Another red flag that popped out at me was the cities so called system of encumbrances..
          And I quote:
          ” An encumbrance system is maintained to account for commitments resulting from approved purchase orders. Outstanding encumbrances lapse at year-end and are absorbed within the new year’s budget appropriation.”
          I think its pretty obvious this is an area that potential irregularities disappear and are just accrued into the next budget.. No cost benefit analysis is done.

          Finally even though the city taxes you in many ways like through your cable bill and your utility bill I thought it might be of interest to all land owners in Burien to review how much of your real estate taxes went to the City of Burien’s government coffers..

          and I quote:

          The City’s regular levy for 2010 was $1.52034 per $1,000 of the assessed valuation.

          or in 2010 every property owner in Burien paid $152.00 per $100,000 in real estate value directly to the city of Burien. It will be more in 2011 and 2012 because they increase it every year..

          I for one would like a better accounting of how my tax money is being spent!

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          • Coverofnight says:

            I looked at those reports, too……my question is, why has their value of land gone up by roughly 3 million and the building values by roughly 1 million when every other real estate value has decreased since Obama was elected? Are these related to some new acquisitions or is this some creative bookkeeping?

            You may be right William – that the fox is in charge of the hen house.

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          • Not saying that you’re right or wrong William or if I agree or disagree, however, the majority of municpalities, counties, special districts, schools and the state have transitioned or are transitioning to the 2 year budget cycle. The state is currently trying to find a way to do a 4 year budget projection.

            The SAO’s office still still performs the yearly review as well.

            Encumbrances are also used because as current state law is written something purchased this year must be invoiced and in-hand by year end. However, many business year-end cycles end in March. As a City Light staffer, I personally find that encumbering the money, which means we have to say WHO it is going for as well as for what, helps me negotiate a better price point with vendors. The vendors know we have money set aside for them (at least in the contracts I work on that are on Seattle’s vendor approved list), they want that money for their year end spreadsheets and don’t want us to wait until their new year. Using this “trick” I was able to save about $20k of SCL rate payer money for a renewal of software.

            On taxes, the city hasn’t raised it the statutorily allowed 1%. There was a poll back in November on this blog that would have generated about $70k more for the general fund. Instead City of Burien employees approached the council with healthcare changes that saved about $70k to the general fund on a yearly basis.

            As Seattle Employee I can say that before the change I had better healthcare benefits than Burien employees. At Seattle we’ve given back COLAs, frozen our pay, taken days off unpaid, increased our payments into retirement but the thought of healthcare changes has never even been brought up by the city or unions. So once again to the Burien employee – Thank you for your work on saving the city tax payer money.

            Lastly, as Cit of Burien residents our property taxes are among the lowest in the county. As Highline residents our taxes are among the highest. We pay more than most other areas for schools. If anyone is curious about how their property tax is appropriated please go to: http://www5.kingcounty.gov/parcelviewer/viewer/kingcounty/viewer.asp and put your address. Then click Property Report.

            Joey Martinez

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      • Per State law the State Auditors office audits all state, county, local, school, special districts… When I worked for the City of Auburn (2001-2005) they were in yearly for a month or so. They’re always around at Seattle and City Light as well. I imagine they’re in Burien on a regular basis as well?

        The reports can be found at : http://www.sao.wa.gov/EN/Audits/Pages/Search/AuditReportSearch.aspx

        Joey Martinez

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  5. Debi Wagner says:

    I agree with William…is this a sneaky way to help buffer shortfalls for area Y? Berk estimated increasing the annual contract with King County Police by 3 million for area Y. Interesting how the high end of this utility tax increase, a whopping $12.+ per month per household will create an additional 2.3 million, more than two thirds the need for area Y. For 30,000 households this is 3.6 million…should be just about right…

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  6. PJ says:

    I’ sure most of you would be singing a different tune if a crime happened to you or one of your loved ones.

    Maybe then you would get behind the “Cops and Kid’s” initiative, so that we can turn around what is not a perception, but a reality that we need more Cops on the streets….

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    • William Forest says:

      PJ

      I don’t think ANYONE debates the merits of getting more cops on the streets.. Lets just state thats what we need not this Kids and Cops thing designed to hide exactly what you state is needed .

      Thats why I have been so vocal about how 15 cops is not nearly enough to cover the area in the annexation of white center proposal. The city of Seattle said it would take at least 45 and that analysis was done BEFORE the recent crime wave here in Burien.. I estimate that we need at least a dozen more cops just here in Burien.

      Think about it >>> IF the residents of area Y are bamboozled into voting for Burien instead of waiting for Seattle (which would be a much better scenario for them) then guess where the shortfall in policing is going to be drawn from? Yes BURIEN! So if you, like myself, are concerned about having LESS police available in current Burien than we have now I suggest you put some of your energy into educating the residents of area Y into voting down Mike Martins empire building proposal of annexation to Burien!

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