LETTER: Resident wants City of Burien to not pay taxes to support Port of Seattle

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

Greetings Council,

As I mentioned in the March 20th Public Comments, the City of Burien is struggling to pay for all the necessary services in addition to being a community that is negatively impacted by proximity to Sea-Tac Airport. In order to make my thoughts clearer to the council, I am submitting this letter to you. Hopefully it will spur serious consideration of funding options.

I propose the council consider alternate revenue streams. While there will be resistance from the Port of Seattle (and any politicians hoping to be elected to the Port Commission), please consider that the Port of Seattle both levies a property tax to fund Sea-Tac Airport and claims an exemption from paying property taxes, including levies to fund the HSD-401 school district. This is demonstrably unfair to the communities negatively impacted by Sea-Tac Airport operations. I would suggest that no community (see note below on defining affected communities) negatively impacted by Sea-Tac Airport operations should be paying any taxes to support Port of Seattle operations. King County collects the tax revenue on behalf of the Port and can easily identify the amounts and municipalities involved.

So how can we access our tax revenues currently being diverted to the Port of Seattle?

  1. We can try to get the Port to voluntarily return their share of the collected revenues to the cities impacted. Best of luck with that.
  2. We can ask our state legislative representatives (Nelson, Cody, and Fitzgibbon) to craft changes to the state tax laws to have the revenue currently allocated to the Port paid directly to the cities impacted for use in their own budgets. This should be a joint effort by all impacted cities.

Next, how do we account for loss of property tax revenue on Port owned properties? The most easily identified impact is in loss of property tax revenue for the HSD-401 school district. It would be a simple calculation to assess the property values and associated tax revenue that is being lost. Getting the Port to make HSD-401 whole for these revenue losses would be more challenging. Pretty much the two options above are the only methods I can see, perhaps others have better ideas?

Note on defining affected communities:

  • Using the cities which now contain properties designated as part of the Sound Insulation program started in 1985 for Sea-Tac Airport would be a simple method for determining which cities are in need of revenue repatriation. This eliminates having to do a study to determine which municipalities should participate in the use of these tax revenues, and how much each municipality would receive. Please note that the Port still has not addressed how recent changes in flight patterns at Sea-Tac are increasing the areas negatively impacted by airport operations, in spite of the requirement that the FAA and Port were supposed to identify those impacts before making significant changes to operations. However, by including all of Burien (or Tukwila, Normandy Park, Federal Way, SeaTac or …), the issue of which cities are impacted by increasing flight operations is muted.
  • The Port of Seattle receives property tax revenue on all privately owned property in Burien, for 2017 set at the rate of $0.0798 per $1,000 of assessed value for general revenue, and another $0.0798 per $1,000 of assessed value for bond payment. The Port estimates that they collect about $77 from the average home in King County (about $500,000 assessed value).
  • The Port also is exempt from paying the state school fund levy of $2.03205 per thousand and the Highline School District 401 levy of $5.71235 per thousand. Both of these tax exemptions directly impact Burien residents as we have to pay higher levy rates when all the Port Authority property avoids the school levy.
  • The Port is a mature business and should have sufficient revenue streams to finance their ongoing operations. The rationale of taxation to support the development of a fledgling port no longer justifies the current Port taxing private homeowners and avoiding their civic duty to help educate our population.

– Douglas Sykes

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3 Responses to “LETTER: Resident wants City of Burien to not pay taxes to support Port of Seattle”
  1. PONYGIRL says:


    You are right on!!

  2. John White says:

    Douglas Sykes I agree with you 100%. The City of Burien should be paying you a consulting fee. The Port is a mature business with plenty of cash and it makes no sense to allow them to not pay taxes while taking taxes from each of we Burien property owners. The Port refuses to fight for us with regards to the recent changes in flight paths so they take our money and continue ignore our concerns.

    Let’s stop paying those taxes until we get some results.

    We need the Port to team up with us and convince the FAA that Burien residents have had enough with the abuse.

    John L. White

  3. Stuart says:

    There are a few other ways the Port of Seattle could contribute to the local communities. 1. currently they send a payment called Lease-Hold Excise tax to the state. Since Port property is not marketable, it can’t be assessed by the King County Assessor. Instead, the Port pays a percentage of revenues from leases of property. I have looked into this in the past with some help from local representatives and from Dept of Revenue staff in Olympia. I do not understand it very well and did not have time to pursue it further.

    But, the idea to help the local governments, including schools, county and cities, is to have an additional percentage of whatever the lease-hold excise tax is be allocated to the local governments in the area.

    2. The Port of Seattle spends an enormous amount of money on facilities. While these are not marketable, they do have a replacement value. The cost of the rental car facility, for example, was more than the cost of some of the sports stadiums. So, the idea is the Port could pay a percentage on the replacement value of these facilities, or on the value of the original cost less depreciation.

    With any of these approaches, cities, schools and King County would have a very different fiscal outlook.

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