Burien Council remains hesitant about specific goals for new biennial budget 1by Jack Mayne Finance Director Kim Krause told the Burien City Council Monday night of adjustments in the preliminary 2015-2016 biennial budget scheduled for adopting on Dec. 1. One is an increase in property tax expected income by $20,000 because of updated assessed valuation data from King County. She also noted the proposed increase in Business and Occupations tax (B&O) to reflect a rate increase to one-half of the allowable rate plus increase the threshold the tax would be effective from $100,000 to $200,000, thus adding $430,000 in 2015 and in 2016 for a total increase of $860,000, a matter the Council has yet to act upon. The budget would have a “development specialist” position costing $213,610 over the biennium. Also to be added to the budget are:

  • $150,000 to 2015 and $40,000 to 2016 for “Downtown Mobility Projects” totaling $190,000.
  • $150,000 to 2016 for the Urban Land Institute to engage the community on how best to address attracting new hotel, office and performing arts development on the major access corridors connected to 1st Avenue.
  • $10,000 increases both in 2015 and 2016 to provide additional funding to the Evergreen Pool for a total increase of $20,000.
  • $100,000 in 2015 to implement the Community Engagement Plan.
Krause also noted some decreases in the budget, including $44,400 in the general fund, $7,425 in the city street fund and $9,650 in the surface water management fund, for a total savings of $61,475. Council comments Councilmember Gerald Robison said raising the threshold on the B&O tax “helps a lot of small businesses, almost all of Burien business are really very small.” But he said he was “not a fan” of just doubling the rate for the larger businesses and suggested a possible graduated tax or different tax rates much the way the state B&O tax is applied. Councilmember Nancy Tosta said some of the expenditures “don’t support the activities that we said we wanted to prioritize.” She said she was “resistant” to spending money on “a lot more studies.” Tosta said it would be good to approve a budget that said “we know we want to spend some money on economic development (but) we are not exactly sure what that investment will be …” until there are more decisions on the development plan during the January work plan discussions. Tosta said she was “strongly supportive of us thinking about the social services component of our budget as it relates to economic development because we are beginning to develop a sense of a homeless problem – we have developed some reputation around how we treat homeless in our community and I think that is potentially hurting the perception of who we are and the kind of environment that we support for economic development.” Current policy, she said, “was not less than 1 percent … I’d like to (think about upping) that number to 1.25 or 1.5 percent.” Councilmember Debi Wagner said she thought it was “counter intuitive to the goal to help the small businesses by raising the B&O tax to fund a program that might help Burien.” She said she preferred raising the city parking tax so that people “who don’t live in Burien can … help us out.” Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz said the goals of the economic program should be adopted before the support for the goals is put in place. “I do support having an economic development specialist,” Berkowitz said. “Our current staff is at max capacity” but was not sure who would do the development work. “As far as the B&O tax, I am a little bit confused about Councilmember Wagner saying that it wouldn’t help small business because it raises the threshold which directly helps small business,” Berkowitz said. “It makes sense if we are looking for improvement in the business climate who should pay for it but businesses who can afford to pay for it.” She proposed that the Council consider raising it even higher, to three-quarters of the maximum instead of half of the state maximum allowed, but keeping the increase in the threshold to the payment so that business under a gross income of $200,000 would be exempt. She would “earmark the difference” over the originally proposed half the maximum allowed and her proposed three-quarters level for “human services including urban rest stops …” City Manager Kamuron Gurol said the lateness of developing the economic goals forced the city staff to make some assumption when putting the budget together so it can be passed by the state law deadline. If the Council by early January adopt their economic goals and actions “that will be your clearest policy statement abut what you want to do and then we tailor the work program to correspond to those goals and actions …” With the “long list of actions – 29 actions – there is no way to make them all number one and it is going to be hard to make progress on all 29 in the next two years.” He said it was up to the Councilmembers to rank the goals for action and “you have the opportunity to change that” but he wanted the members to make the decision early in January so that the staff has the balance of the year to carry out and accomplish as much as possible. “A challenge I have right now, though, is I have heard at least two newer ideas that didn’t make it to us by tonight and in order to actually craft the budget that you can adopt before the end of the year, we have to actually incorporate whatever the Council’s direction is. The two new items we heard tonight (Nov. 3) I can add to the (budget) matrix … but I will tell you that some of these ideas are a little complex so we’ll do our best, but it could be a challenge to do a thorough discussion on every idea – we’ll make a good shot at it.”]]>