Burien City Council members agreed March 19 to vote at their April 2 meeting on whether to schedule an election on the annexation of unincorporated North Highline for Aug. 7.
Should the council decide in two weeks to delay that decision, they would have until sometime in June to schedule an annexation vote for the November general election.
Aug. 7 is the primary election and putting annexation before North Highline voters at that time will spare the city the cost of a separate election.
The same will be true with a vote in the general election in November.
Only residents of the unincorporated area will, under state law, vote on whether to become part of Burien.
The major hold back to proceeding with annexation after the King County Boundary Review Board gave Burien a green light on Feb. 16 has been uncertainty about the state’s annexation sales tax credit.
This credit is codified to give Burien $5 million a year for 10 years – a total of $50 million – if the city annexes North Highline.
While the Legislature earlier established the sales tax credit to assist cities that annex adjacent populated areas with the transition costs of annexation, Gov. Chris Gregoire suggested abolishing it as one in a litany of budget-balancing moves she proposed in November.
But when the Legislature – which failed to adopt a revised budget to offset the state’s revenue shortfall – ended its 60-day regular session earlier this month, that sales tax credit remained in budgets proposed by Democrats and Republicans alike in both the House and Senate.
SALES TAX CREDIT UPDATE
And City Manager Mike Martin told Burien council members Monday night that in his best “professional certainty” he believes the sales tax credit will now remain in place.
City staff waited for legislative action on the budget before bringing annexation back before the council, and Martin twice received status updates from Olympia before making his remarks to the council.
No changes to it are contemplated in the special session, he said. “There’s no certainty on what goes on in Olympia under the best of circumstances … [but] the credit is part of the law now. It’s not on anyone’s list.”
Martin added that other jurisdictions that also receive the annexation sales tax credit “have said they have reasonable certainty” it will remain intact. “There is no such thing as 100 percent certainty, but we can be reasonably sure.”
CITY COUNCIL COMMENTS
Council members were encouraged to make “an up or down decision at your earliest convenience … as soon as you feel comfortable” so the work of putting annexation on the August primary ballot can begin if they decide to proceed now.
Councilman Jack Block Jr. then asked Martin what the deadline is for putting the question on November’s general election ballot. Martin said he didn’t have a specific date “but probably in June.”
“I am confident [the sales tax credit is] safe,” Councilman Gerald Robison stated. “Too many cities utilize it. It’s not a lot for the state budget, but it’s a lot for the cities who depend on it.”
At the outset of the meeting, a number of Burien and North Highline residents commented on the proposed annexation. About eight were against with about six in favor.
And Debi Wagner, who challenged Robison for his city council seat last fall, said he should recuse himself from voting to put annexation on the ballot because, she alleged, Robison has a conflict of interest due to his legal work for the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council.
CITIZEN COMMENTS AGAINST
John Poitras said the city should set an annexation vote for November because more people will vote in the general election than in the primary.
Charlie Rangel stated because “the sales tax credit is not what the city says it is” Burien won’t have enough money to pay for annexation.
But “it seems certain that by hook or by crook Area Y [North Highline] is going to be annexed,” Roger Delorum said.
Chestine Edgar, who said she was representing the Annexation Evaluation Committee comprised of both Burien and North Highline residents, told the council “you do not have the money to proceed.”
In a statement virtually identical to a 10-point anti-annexation letter to the editor by John and Linda Poitras, which was posted on The B-Town Blog earlier in the day Monday, Edgar said when the sales tax credit ends in 10 years the city “will not have the money to support it.”
Noting that Burien doesn’t have adequate money to support social services there, Edgar also cited information from the King County Assessor’s Office that property values in Burien have declined.
She said the resulting decline in property tax revenue means the city couldn’t maintain services, especially if North Highline is included.
CITIZEN COMMENTS FOR
Joey Martinez, who was appointed to the Planning Commission later in the meeting and also was an unsuccessful city council candidate against now-Councilman Bob Edgar in last year’s primary, countered that annexation “is really the right decision for the city.
“There are things that are not looked at like what happens to the area of Seattle annexes it? Take it seriously, get it done, make it right.”
Barbara Dobkin, president of the North Highline Area Unincorporated Area Council, said most people there “prefer Burien as an annexation option based on the city’s taxes and services.”
And Rachel Levine, who said she “voted in August 2009 to become part of Burien,” noted “the rest of North Highline isn’t just Area Y. People live there, have businesses there, raise their children there ….
“I hope you will go ahead with offering the people of North Highline the opportunity of deciding to become part of Burien.”
Two White Center business women spoke about their ties to Burien and what they already offer customers from Burien.
The city council approved on Oct. 3 a Notice of Intent to Annex the remaining unincorporated area between Burien and Seattle, which came after several months of lengthy hearings and discussions, including hours of testimony from consultants and local residents.
That measure was approved by a 5-2 vote. Since then, however, Edgar defeated then-Councilman Gordon Shaw, another strong advocate for the proposed action, in last November’s election.
Burien’s notice of intent was submitted to the King County Boundary Review Board, established by the Growth Management Act, which held a public hearing on the matter on Jan. 9-10.
The Boundary Review Board approved the proposed annexation on Feb. 16.