To the Editor:
What new taxes, franchise fees and user fees will Area Y/ White Center residents, residential property owners and business owners have to pay to be part of Burien?
What are the new taxes and fees and their rates?
When Mike Martin/Burien city Manager was asked this question at this at the October 18, 2012 annexation informational meeting-see the White Center Now Blog video-he was unable to answer the question. He had his management assistant bring him the booklet and he read it to the audience. While Mr. Martin claimed that he was sure it was only $140 per year, he had no idea of how this number was arrived at. In another brochure that Burien put out on annexation, it claimed the fee would be $155 per year for a residential property valued at $200,000. The North Highline Unincorporated Council has stated that the tax increase will be about $10 per month or $120 per year. All of these figures are wrong because the amount depends on so many variables.
Here are some important things to consider in trying to figure out how much your taxes will go up in Area Y, if you end up annexed to Burien;
- The figures presented on the cost break out shown on the city sheet titled “Impact to Average Household” doesn’t mention that these new taxes will apply to all residents and not just property owners.
- Apartment renters as well as property owners will see new taxes and fees attached to their utility bills that have never been there before. If you don’t own a home you will still see a significant tax increase or increase in your rent.
- Burien claims that the City levies a 3% utility tax on electric and a 6% utility tax on cable, gas, garbage and telephone utilities. Seattle City Light customers in Burien also pay a special fee for undergrounding of utilities along 1st Ave. S. based upon usage.
However, when you go over the actual bills, the fees for some utilities appear to be different than what Burien has shown on its Impact sheet.
Cable appears to be taxed 7.7% rather than 6% because of the additional franchise fees. People who bundle will pay more taxes on their phone services than people who do not bundle services with their cable. A cable bill of $125.32 per month paid $9.90 in taxes, surcharges and fees to Burien.
Electricity will be higher than shown by the city because the underground wiring fee is based on units of usage. People use more electricity during the winter. Those people using electricity for heating in the winter will experience a significant increase in their electric bill. The fees shown by the City in its example sheet may not be in line with real electrical costs depending on how many people reside at the location, their ages and the age of the structure they live in. Underground wiring fees for a home not on electric heat ranges from approximately $5 to $8 per month.The electricity fees are so well hidden, it is hard to tease out all of the real fees in a bill that go to Burien.
Telephone fees shown are not realistic for today’s cost. The phone services are charged at a rate of 6.382% for both hardline service and cell phones. Depending on what is your phone plan, the telephones-hardline and celluar –will probably cost you more than $70 per month for phone service. A cell phone bill of $100 dollars per month will cost a citizen $63.82 per year in new taxes.
The cost of garbage per month shown does not match the amount that is currently charged to Burien residents. It will cost an additional $3.00 per month over what is being shown by the city for the min. amount of service that the average home can buy.. Business pays at a different rate than residential for pick up. Expect an increase in your garbage costs or rent to cover this.
The Fire rate will increase to cover the new emergency program that must be developed for the North Highline Fire Dept. and to cover the North Highline Fire Dept. retirement program.
The storm water rate will increase by approx. $14 per year in 2013 and will continue to need to increase annually for at least four to five years beyond that because the area needs to raise $23 million dollars in five years to cover its deficit storm water facilities-Berk Report.
Natural Gas fees-Burien tax fees shown on the bill are at 6.67% . The cost of cooking, the hot water tank, dryer, heating and a furnace exceeds $40 per month . This estimate is simply not realistic for 2 people in a residence much less a family.
Additionally the City’s estimate does not take in to account that the property tax rate will have to increase because Burien is currently using money from its reserves to balance the budget.
Based on these above factors and analysis of actual citizen bills, the tax increase for two people living in a single family residence far exceeds the projected tax increase of $140 that Mr. Martin and the City of Burien have predicted. And taxes and fees far exceed the estimate of $10 per month by the NHUAC. These hidden taxes and fees nickel and dime citizens to death and are difficult to get a handle on.
Businesses will be even hit harder by these new fees. They pay at a different rate and use the utilities at a higher unit rate than the average home or apartment. Some businesses will be paying thousands of dollars more per year to do business in Burien.
Burien must continue to increase these rates because it can’t bring in enough revenue through property taxes. Currently Burien takes in less money than it needs to spend to run the city. Area Y residents, joining Burien will really increase your taxes annually-much more that $10 per month or $140 dollars pre year- and you will get less in services.
The problem with these new taxes is that they impact Area Y families, citizens on fixed incomes & limited incomes much harder than wealthier citizens. At this time and in this economy, any increase is too much to bear, especially when it doesn’t include improvement.
– Debi Wagner
Independent White Center
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