Burien City Manager Mike Martin is concerned Ã¢â‚¬â€œ very concerned Ã¢â‚¬â€œ about the likelihood that Initiative 1033 will pass in NovemberÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s general election. So much, in fact, that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exploring the possibility of a local referendum that could exempt Burien from the requirements of this tax-limitation ballot measure should it win approval statewide.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“If I-1033 passes, it will stop the city cold in its tracks,Ã¢â‚¬Â Martin told The B-Town Blog. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The progress weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been making will just plod along if we no longer have the tools to build on what weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve done so far. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll go away and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a fact.Ã¢â‚¬Â
According to the ballot measure summary, I-1033 Ã¢â‚¬Å“would limit growth in state revenues Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ and limit growth in county and city revenues. The limit would be adjusted based on annual growth in inflation and populationÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. The limit would exclude voter-approved revenue increases. Revenues above the limit would reduce property tax levies.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Burien City Council members voted 3-1 on Oct. 5 to oppose I-1033, with three opponents of the initiative absent.
Earlier, city Finance Director Tabatha Miller told them that restrictions imposed by I-1033 would be Ã¢â‚¬Å“problematic for BurienÃ¢â‚¬Â because Ã¢â‚¬Å“it does not take into account commercial growth like that envisioned in the Northeast Development AreaÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. In essence, any commercial growth in the NERA or elsewhere which increased the CityÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s revenues could not be used to provide the supporting city services, but instead would decrease the next yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s property taxes.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“If people want smaller government, we can give them that,Ã¢â‚¬Â Martin said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But that will have consequences in the way we serve our residentsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s safe to say that we would slow down or stop major projects in the worksÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬â€œ including new development in the Northeast Redevelopment Area, street and sidewalk work, and discretionary programs from parks to senior services.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a real potential for closing the city down for all or part of one day a week,Ã¢â‚¬Â he added. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That is not being punitive, it is being responsiveÃ¢â‚¬Â if the ballot measure passes.
To sidestep these impacts of I-1033, Martin is considering proposing to the council Ã¢â‚¬Å“a referendum that would allow the city to opt outÃ¢â‚¬Â of its requirements.
While this proposition allows voters to approve property tax levy lid lifts locally, Martin noted it also could impact grants and other sources of funding not covered by a levy lid lift.
That, he explained, is why heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exploring the possibility of a referendum Ã¢â‚¬â€œ despite the fact he isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sure whether a city legally can exempt itself from a voter-passed law. Currently heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s investigating the legality of such a move.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“If itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s possible for the city to opt out, I will propose to council that they place such a referendum on the February (special election) ballot.Ã¢â‚¬Â