Council rejects move to cut police budget, gives Burien employees living cost raise 1by Jack Mayne Updating Burien’s biennial budget halfway through drew attempts to slash the budget for city police and to increase the cost of living increase for Burien city workers. After two and a half hours of back and forth, on Monday night (Nov. 16), the Burien City Council voted to delay the final vote on the changes to the biennial budget until its next meeting on Dec. 7. It also heard a complaint that police north of 128th Street in Burien treated people in a “condescending way, dismissively and, at times, abusively.” The complaint came from Jon Scherer, the candidate who lost a challenge to unseat Mayor Lucy Krakowiak in the Nov. 3 election. Increased city staff pay After a long discussion, the Council approved a slight increase in the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for employees of the city, from 1 percent to 1.1 percent, an amount that Finance Director Kim Krause said it is “very, very small … less than $10,000.” The Council during budget discussions were told by City Manager Kamuron Gurol that he was proposing a 1 percent salary increase instead of the 2 percent the Council had originally had in the 2016 budget proposal. Krause said the 1 percent figure is 90 percent of the Consumer Price Index figure and 1.1 percent is the CPI projection. Councilmember Gerald Robison moved to raise the amount to 1.1 percent. “As one of our constituents pointed out, it is not really a COLA if it does not keep up with the cost of living,” Robison said. He said the lower limit on cost of living increases was passed during a time when the city was in a worse financial situation and was done instead of cutting city staff. It is the “appropriate time” to drop the lower limit and “insure that the staff gets pay increases with the cost of living.” Krakowiak said she favored keeping staff increases at 1 percent because “we are just coming out of a tough financial time.” Councilmember Steve Armstrong asked what the dollar difference to the budget is between a 1 percent and a 1.1 percent figure and [caption id="attachment_93343" align="alignright" width="225"]BerkowitzBurienCC111615 Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz[/caption] Berkowitz wants 2 percent Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz moved to go back to the original budget proposal of a 2 percent staff cost of living increase. “A 2 percent COLA is almost so low it is not a COLA,” she said, adding it was unfair to a “hardworking staff and we want to retain the best staff. A 1 percent COLA is probably not even going to do it, but it is certainly better than undermining staff by taking away budgeted money that was already allocated to them and say, never mind, we are not going to give it to you after all.” She said she would support lower increases but felt she should “at least fight for 2 percent.” Robison said it was a cost of living amount and not a merit raise and “I believe a cost of living increase should track the cost of living increase,” but said “we have raised city staff salaries at less than the cost of living for the past few years.” Councilmember Debi Wagner said Berkowitz’s proposed raise to 2 percent would mean spending the city’s approved 1 percent property tax increase “on ourselves, again” if it went to staff salaries, that little would be left over for other city projects. Armstrong said staff people get step increases and Krause said there are five steps in each employees pay schedule and they can qualify for that merit raise once a year on their anniversary date. When they reach the top step, it is just the cost of living raise. Robison and Berkowitz were the only two members to vote to increase the city staff increase by 2 percent. Then the Council voted 5 to 2 on increasing the cost of living staff raise from 1 percent to 1.1 percent. Krakowiak and Councilmember Bob Edgar voted against the change. No police increase Berkowitz made a number of motions to suspend the increases in the city police contract budget, which is like a bill from the King County Sheriff’s Office since that agency is under contract to Burien to provide policing, over half of the city’s annual budget. First she moved to remove any projected increase in jail expenditures, then to remove all money for security cameras at Town Square and for all lighting at Dottie Harper Park and Town Square. Both motions failed because there were no seconding motions. Then Berkowitz moved to delete all increases for police officers, and this time Robison seconded the motion “so it can be discussed.” That was discussed at length and eventually, Berkowitz was outvoted 6 to 1. Putting people in jail is becoming a nationwide problem, she said, so the city needed to put fewer people in jail in order to save money, “responding by prevention instead of police activity and the best way to do that is to make sure we keep our police funded at the same level rather than to continually giving them more money.” Robison said that reducing enforcement is not the right way to lower people sentenced to jail, a better way would for the Washington Legislature to change mandatory sentencing requirements. Viable police support Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta said the city must maintain a viable police presence as requested by the citizens. Krakowiak agreed, saying she supported increased money for police, as did Edgar and Wagner who added the money would go “to protect the public we serve.” Armstrong said, “Our primary responsibility is the safety and security of the people of Burien.” Berkowitz then said she agreed with the Councilmembers about keeping the public safe. “But police are not making the public safer. We’ve seen study after study about how increasing police does not make the city safer, does not make residents safer and, in fact, can make residents of certain racial minorities a lot less safe and that is my main concern in representing all of the people of Burien and not just a small group of Burien.” She said there were many people north of 128th who do not feel safe and that needs to be investigated “before we keep throwing more money to the police force.” “I argue that the police make the people less safe,” Berkowitz concluded. Finance Director Krause said the police request is not just for a cost of living hike, but “a big piece of the increase is in overhead … which is fixed at the beginning of the year.” She said the increase is because of increased training due to new officers being hired to replace those departments, legal fees and such. Charges for the officers are based on the hours they work for the city, she said, and there is actually a rebate of $40,000 for police hours unused in 2014 but increases in adding off-duty officers to patrol the City Hall/Library complex during evening hours. The $60,000 annual cost is shared equally with the city and the King County Library system. [caption id="attachment_93342" align="alignleft" width="225"]JonSchererBurienCC111615 Jon Scherer[/caption] Potential police tragedy Jon Scherer, who lost to Mayor Lucy Krakowiak in the recent election, told the Burien City Council Monday night that he was told by a fellow campaigner that “The Burien Police Dept. has a significant public relations problem north of 128th Street in Burien.” He said people in the area were “treated in a condescending way, dismissively and, at times, abusively. There were many people that gave me feedback that they were concerned when they need to call the police because they are concerned about the safety of their family pets. There have been several incidents when police come out, some of which I have direct knowledge of.” He said North Burien people have lost faith in the police. “Many of them have taken to arming themselves and have gone on their own to try to find the perpetrators that have committed crimes, either of mail theft, break-ins and the like. “I am very concerned that if something isn’t done to prepare the relationship between the police department and the citizens of north Burien, we will be ripe for a tragedy. Police Chief Scott Kimerer and Scherer discussed the issue later, outside the Council session, in an effort to get additional information, a city official said.]]>