LETTER: ‘City in Financial Difficulty’; ‘May Have Gone Into Reserve Fund’

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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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11 Responses to “LETTER: ‘City in Financial Difficulty’; ‘May Have Gone Into Reserve Fund’”
  1. Brad T. says:

    This is exactaly what we are talking about Burien cannot afford this and it’s pure vanity to try to go bankrupt or have taxes raised after the fact just to get this annexation pushed thru. I do not want to see the burden of a bad choice raise my taxes as well as lower my house value what the hell are they thinking, demand this be brought to public attention and stop sweeping this under the rug. Stop treating us like fools and be truthfull so people can make an informed decision and do whats right for us all and VOTE NO! Thanks for your ear

  2. Lee Moyer says:

    I thought the city already went bankrupt when they annexed area X. No, wait, that doomsday prediction didn’t turn out to be true after all. Kinda like D W’s “understanding” that the city is dipping into its reserve fund, based on a rumor mentioned by a citizen speaker, not anything stated by the council or staff. Should be easy to document, if it was true.

  3. Fred says:

    To Lee Moyer-
    I suggest that you read pages 1,2,3-Mike Martin’s letter on the Burien Budget 2013-2014- where the City Manager explains how he is going to have to go into the Reserve Fund for millions to balance the City’s budget for the next two years before you make any further rude, disrespectful comments about DW. Do your homework before you attack people. It is easy to document. Just take the time to look up the City Council packet for 9-24-12 and then I suggest you apologize to DW.

    • Lee Moyer says:

      D W states in her first paragraph she is basing her comments on the meeting. I was at the meeting and heard a speaker say he had heard that the city had to dip into its reserve just to make payroll. At the end, in answer to a councilman’s question, I heard Mike Martin state that was completely false. There was no evidence presented at the meeting to back up the rumor.

      • ATKMH says:

        Oh, it doesn’t matter if it was false, we need something to write about and create some kind of hysteria to keep the comments coming. Why don’t people listen to the comments made months ago by the Finance Director? This was predicted months ago. Sigh……..

  4. mike says:

    This whole annexation debacle just keeps getting better. Dipping into the reserves? Come on martin. You act like we are stupid over here. I bet if a question is raised at the Oct 2nd Town hall forum about dipping into reserves and raising the taxes in Area Y even more than stated by martin ($140/yr? and I’m hearing it will be closer to $400/household, $2000/business) it will be considered rude and just another anti-annexation veteran causing trouble and the question wont be answered like all the other tough questions.

    It would be nice since BTown and WC blog are sister sites if they would publish Ms. Wagner’s letter on there.

    It should be sent to the White Center Now blog as well as the Seattle Times, Highline Times/White Center News, Komo, Kiro, King 5 etc etc etc

    Area Y Mike

  5. Ed Dacy says:

    That wthe city used reserved funds was a statement by a resident of White Center and denied by staff. But you had to watch the entire meeting.

  6. John Poitras says:

    My understanding is that everything in the letter Ms Wagner wrote is true and correct.
    One source of the dipping into the reserve fund came from a whistle blower on the city staff who I am sure does not want their identity revealed.. they would probably be fired out of hand.

    I have to wonder why people that know nothing about what is really happening automatically attack anyone that criticizes actions or lack of actions on the part of the Burien City manager. Is it a quid pro quo thing? It certainly isn’t in the best interests of the residents of Burien to dismiss serious questions out of hand without doing the appropriate research and stating so.

  7. Fred says:

    To Lee Moyer-
    Like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, you need to wish for a brain. If by some miracle you get one, check the date of the meeting this Blog is talking about. You are talking about what you heard at the Council meeting of Sept.17, 2012. This blog editorial is about what happened at the Council meeting of Sept. 24, 2012. And you still owe DW an apology. The City is planning to dip into its Reserve Fund for millions of dollars for the years 2013-2014 to balance its budget. Read the council packet,oh you true believer to Mike Martin’s prouncements.

  8. Ed Dacy says:

    If there is a whistle blower on the City payroll they should report it to the State Auditor who will protect their idenity and investigate the charges

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