By Jack Mayne
The Burien City Council discussed conditions that lead people to homelessness along with the current system for addressing homelessness, and listed options for expanding the sheltering system in the city during its regular meeting Monday (Nov. 4) evening.
Councilmembers also heard that staff is proposing a 1 percent property tax increase and that Boulevard Park residents want better upkeep of Southern Heights Park leased by Burien “because it has a lot of potential in a small space.”
Residents need $30 an hour
Colleen Brandt-Schluter, the Burien Human Services Manager, said a person needed to earn $30 an hour to afford a one bedroom apartment in the city, but the current minimum wage is $12 an hour, and that 40 percent of the homeless said it was not being able to afford housing or losing a job as the “primary cause of homelessness. She noted nearly half (40 percent) of Americans “are not able to cover a $400 emergency expense.”
Burien’s approach, said Brandt-Schluter, was a person-centered and service connection, with housing services including shelters. Also included was a program “that address homelessness prevention (and) effectively connect people to housing.”
Pastor Jenny Partch (pictured, left) said residents “came out and helped out to bring supplies on such short notice,” but with resources available to the city, “we can just launch into year-around shelters at this point.” She said “I think we have a great plan with support from the city, money support from the community with volunteers and the churches coming together to supply the building space.” She added the shelter is on track to be open when the weather becomes winter-like.
Police Chief Ted Boe told Council that homeless are often referred to as “one thing, but they are not. They are individuals with individual needs.”
1 percent tax increase
In accordance with the City’s financial policies and state law, Finance Director Eric Christensen said the 2020 proposed city budget includes a 1 percent increase in the property tax levy, the amount limited by state law, or about $68,500 in additional revenue and increase. He said the owner of a median home valued at $421,500 will pay around $7.50 more than this year.
The Council’s final approval of the 2020 budget will be on Dec. 2, and should give the city a 2020 property tax income of $8,073,471. Monday night was the second required public hearing.
The city also will increase surface water management fees that are different depending on the amount of the surface water, from normal residential to very heavy use.The normal residential fee will be $173.74.
The city will also increase the commercial parking tax from $3 to $3.07. The tax not directly paid by residential property owners. The anticipated revenue increase is around $5,000 in 2020 citywide.
The property tax levy, SWM rates, and commercial parking rates are scheduled for vote on Nov. 18.
Resident Sarah Moore wanted better upkeep of Southern Heights Park leased by Burien “because it has a lot of potential in a small space.” Vicky Hartley of Boulevard Park also said the park needed upkeep and “we need more places for our children to play with their families and family friendly establishments” instead of just places to buy cigarettes and alcohol.
Brett D’Antonio, the chief executive officer for Habitat for Humanity, said his group supported the city’s affordable housing demonstration program.
David Feinberg said he wanted the homeless to be treated better and not hassled when shopping or buying coffee.