By Jack Mayne

City Finance Director Eric Christensen gave the Burien City Council the first of what promises to be many long range looks at the financial health of the city and forecast for the 2021 city budget. He said the city in 2020 increased the allocation of the property tax to the general fund to “address revenue/expenditures.”

He noted the expiration this year of the $1 million a year annexation credit granted with the absorption in 2010 of the southern part of White Center, known as the North Highline annexation area, into Burien.

Fees to increase
The city has increased its franchise fee from 6 percent to 8 percent on Seattle City Light, for an annual impact of $400,000. It also has increased the card room tax from 8 percent to 11 percent to gain $130,000. The gambling tax gain is expected to be diminished by the downward effects on gambling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the revenue side, Christensen said there will be general inflation for general buying, a cost of living increase of 1 percent in 2021and 2 percent in 2022. Against that, the increase of police services is expected to be 4 percent.

The city also expects sales tax revenues to return to pre-COVID-19 levels n 2022 and general “downward trends for both cable and telephone utility taxes.”

One chart said “In 2021, the operating budget deficit is $3.3 million and increases to $5.8 million by 2030.”

Reductions to date
So far, the city has furloughed “intermittent and seasonal staff,” Christensen said, and ordered mandatory furloughs for regular staff, six days for department directors and four days for main city staff. Some vacant positions remained vacant and mandatory furlough days for regular staff. Those included eight days for the city manager, six days for department directors and four days for regular staff. Some vacancies have been left unfilled.

“One of the things that’s terrific about Burien,” Wilson said, “we have outstanding staff, we have high performing staff who produce tremendous results and when I look at my colleagues in different cities,” he said the Burien staffing percentage is “about 30 percent below other comparable cities. But we produce, second to none is my opinion.”

Improving Miller Creek
The Council unanimously approved $1.3 million for its portion of the the Miller Creek enhancement project which improves the creek as it flows through Port of Seattle property in the Northeast Redevelopment Area along the Miller Creek Trail and crosses under Des Moines Memorial Drive in SeaTac. The existing creek is steep and not very fish friendly as it crosses Des Moines Memorial Drive in SeaTac through a small aging culvert and then into a pipe on private property under a public storage facility, said Public Works Director Maiya Andrews (pictured, right).

The proposed improvements lengthen and flatten the creek and daylight a large segment of the creek by relocating the Des Moines Memorial Drive culvert crossing to the south. The new culvert will be a 17 foot wide and more fish friendly that the president culvert, said fish passable box culvert, eliminating an existing barrier to salmon.

The project is paid for by city stormwater management funds, a state grant, SeaTac money for work done in their right-of-way and from the Port of Seattle. Both the City of SeaTac and the Port of Seattle have previously approved their portions of the expenses.

Demolition costs increase
City Parks Director Carolyn Hope (pictured, left) reminded the Council it approved demolishing the Annex for $350,000, based on preliminary cost estimates. She said the budget allowed up to $325,000 for construction, with the remaining for contingencies and costs for utility disconnection fees, signage, and other items.

The apparent low bidder was Construction Group International (CGI), with a project total of $345,400. Hope said she was seeking a 20 percent contingency, normal for such projects, which would combine with the remaining budget, and an additional $40,000. The money would only be used if necessary, she said.

The Council approved the increase on a 4 to 3 vote.

Senior Reporter Jack Mayne passed away in December, 2021. In his honor we have created the Jack Mayne Journalism Scholarship.