Here’s our recap of the Burien City Council’s regular meeting held on Monday night, Dec. 18, 2023:
Incoming & Outgoing Councilmembers
To begin the meeting, newly-elected councilmembers Linda Akey and Alex Andrade, and the re-elected Kevin Schilling, were sworn in. Akey and Andrade will begin serving at the next council meeting.
Proclamations were read for both Councilmember Cydney Moore and Mayor Sofia Aragon in honor of their service on the council. For both Moore and Aragon, this is the last meeting of their elected service.
Councilmember Cydney Moore made a final effort to suspend the no-camping ordinance due to winter weather, but this motion failed in a 4–3 vote.
City Manager’s Report
City Manager Adolfo Bailon briefly reported on the recently approved homeless encampment situation. King County Regional Homelessness Authority, along with Burien staff, are going forward in partnership with Seattle to build a sanctioned homeless camp adjacent to Kennedy Catholic High School.
Bailon also mentioned that communication between the city and Oasis Home Church has resumed. He said he still does not know what conditions are like for residents of the temporary homeless encampment. The King County Fire District needs to perform an inspection of the area, and they still have not gotten the required permissions from the church to go forward with that inspection.
Multiple neighbors of the Oasis encampment expressed distress at the camp’s recent expansion and lack of rules for residents. They shared that they and their neighbors are feeling like prisoners in their homes, with so much crime happening just outside their doors now. They said the encampment, contrary to promises made by the organizers to the community, is allowing criminals to stay there.
Another encampment causing neighborhood problems is at the Highline United Methodist Church. Neighbors shared their concerns with recent activities at the church. They said there has been an uptick in abandoned vehicles, refuse, and open drug use around the church, thanks to the church providing refuge for the homeless. One woman said she bought a house next to a church, not next to a homeless encampment, and these activities have changed the neighborhood for the worse. The pastor has apparently “been deaf” to complaints regarding these issues.
Some speakers welcomed the incoming councilmembers, and said they are looking forward to more professional and civil council meetings. Others thanked outgoing councilmember Cydney Moore for her hard work and passion on so many important issues.
One person mentioned how much money the city could save by eliminating the City Manager position.
PROS Plan Update
The city’s Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Plan gets updated every six years. The update takes into account feedback from the community to be sure recreational needs are being met equitably and sustainably.
Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling pointed out that the park usage data shared by members of the Design Workshop team during the presentation were clearly inaccurate. For example, they showed that there were 18,000 users of quiet Miller Creek Park, while popular Seahurst had 21,000 and Town Square Park only had 2,400. The presenters explained that these data come from phone pings, so people at parks without phones would not be counted. On the other hand, people driving by might be counted as a park user. A more accurate measuring tool was requested by multiple councilmembers, such as physical counts at each park.
Councilmember Sarah Moore asked what the council can do to create more parks. Specifically, survey results show a very strong desire for public access to Lake Burien, which is a public lake that provides no access to those without a waterfront home. PaRCS Director Casey Stanley said that once the need is identified, they put the word out and seek grant funding. Land has to be purchased as well as funding secured for upkeep. It could be that creating a park to access Lake Burien would cost as much as creating several parks in other locations, unless land is donated for the purpose.
There will be two more meetings with council on the PROS Plan: one on Jan. 22, and one on Feb. 26, 2024.
Fixing The Revenue Gap
Burien has been facing an impending revenue gap for many years, when the expenses of running the city will exceed the money being brought in. Council has heard a series of presentations on the top three recommended ways to bring in reliable revenue. They include increasing building and planning permit fees, increasing the utilities tax rate on water & sewer from 8% to 10%, and doubling the B&O tax rate from 0.1% to 0.2%.
Burien’s B&O tax rate doubled in 2015, going from 0.05% to 0.1%. The city’s fees are currently lower than those of surrounding cities. The recommended rate changes will bring the fees more into balance as far as what it costs to provide these services. It was specified that this rate increase will not affect businesses which bring in less than $200,000 annually.
The expected total new revenue from all three recommended changes will bring in $2.2 million in 2025, with $1.7 million from the B&O tax increase.
At this meeting, council voted unanimously to direct staff to return at a future meeting with recommended legislation that will solve the budget deficit. This will not fund additional or increasing services of any kind, only retain the status quo as far as current city services. Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling also asked staff to bring possible voter-approved options for revenue increases to a future meeting. As Councilmember Cydney Moore pointed out, breaking even is not sufficient. Increasing revenue by a bit more than required will allow funds for the things people keep calling for, like improved public safety.
Watch video of the full meeting here.