by Ralph Nichols

Burien City Manager Mike Martin is concerned – very concerned – about the likelihood that Initiative 1033 will pass in November’s general election. So much, in fact, that he’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.

“If I-1033 passes, it will stop the city cold in its tracks,” Martin told The B-Town Blog. “The progress we’ve been making will just plod along if we no longer have the tools to build on what we’ve done so far. They’ll go away and that’s a fact.”

According to the ballot measure summary, I-1033 “would limit growth in state revenues … and limit growth in county and city revenues. The limit would be adjusted based on annual growth in inflation and population…. The limit would exclude voter-approved revenue increases. Revenues above the limit would reduce property tax levies.”

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 “problematic for Burien” because “it does not take into account commercial growth like that envisioned in the Northeast Development Area…. In essence, any commercial growth in the NERA or elsewhere which increased the City’s revenues could not be used to provide the supporting city services, but instead would decrease the next year’s property taxes.”

“If people want smaller government, we can give them that,” Martin said. “But that will have consequences in the way we serve our residents…. It’s safe to say that we would slow down or stop major projects in the works” – including new development in the Northeast Redevelopment Area, street and sidewalk work, and discretionary programs from parks to senior services.

“There’s a real potential for closing the city down for all or part of one day a week,” he added. “That is not being punitive, it is being responsive” if the ballot measure passes.

To sidestep these impacts of I-1033, Martin is considering proposing to the council “a referendum that would allow the city to opt out” 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 he’s exploring the possibility of a referendum – despite the fact he isn’t sure whether a city legally can exempt itself from a voter-passed law. Currently he’s investigating the legality of such a move.

“If it’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.”

Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

One reply on “City Manager Mike Martin Exploring Ways To Opt Out If I-1033 Passes”

  1. Patently ridiculous.

    The Initiative is just what we need during a recession. The fact that the city manager doesn’t seem to understand that puts his leadership ability in question.

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