LETTER: ‘City in Financial Difficulty’; ‘May Have Gone Into Reserve Fund’
It is my understanding that at this last Burien City Council meeting (9-24-12), it became apparent that the City of Burien is in financial difficulty. Not only does the City need to raise taxes but it is going to have to go into and may already have gone into the Reserve Funds to balance the budget. It is my understanding that the Reserve Funds are to be kept for unexpected emergencies and not regular operating costs. I don’t believe paying for regular services and staff salaries is an emergency. It means they’re operating a budget beyond their means. It may also explain why the Burien City Manager is so hot to go forward with annexation and hopes to get the possible $5 million from the Sales Tax Credits to pay for the police-which he is now having difficulty funding. A very poor reason to proceed on this annexation.
However, the North Highline Area/ White Center/Area Y has even greater needs than the Sales Tax Credits and reduced amount of property taxes collected for the area can generate. The property values dropped in White Center by -17% last year and dropped another -12% this year according to the King County Assessor. There is also a $77 million dollar infrastructure need for area Y that was never budgeted by Berk or Burien and apparently no money available as resources are dwindling. This means that the Berk Report that the City of Burien commissioned and used as its rationale for annexation is completely incorrect about revenues to be anticipated from annexation. As many of us have said all along, Burien cannot afford this annexation.
What is even more maddening is that the City Council and the City Manager should have been tightening the city’s spending 4 years ago. Staff raises and unwarranted COLAs should never have been given and staff reductions should have been considered. Instead, the city dithered away its time and resources pretending that these budget problems would just disappear. The focus should have been on strengthening the core City of Burien rather than constantly pursuing further annexations of lands it cannot now adequately support, repair and maintain.
When are the Burien City Council members and the City Manager going to wake up and be honest to both groups of citizens about the fact that Burien cannot afford to annex Area Y/North Highline/White Center? The handwriting is on the budget pages for Burien in 2013-2014 that this annexation is not affordable. In my estimation, adding up figures from old and new information, instead of revenue neutral, Burien will actually be short by about 13 million in year one from today’s level of service for both areas even with the full tax credit.
– Debi Wagner
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