by Jack Mayne A proposal by City Manager Kamuron Gurol to increase the city’s Business and Occupation tax on larger businesses and ending it for small businesses was debated at Monday night’s Burien City Council meeting, but no action was planned until the entire next biennial budget is debated sometime before the state budget deadline on Jan.1. The current Business and Occupation tax is 25 percent of the allowable rate under state law, and Gurol’s proposal would double it. But the proposal also would exclude the tax from small businesses grossing $200,000 or less annually where now the tax is collected from businesses grossing $100,000 and above. “That gets a large number of the mom and pop businesses – the start-up businesses, the businesses where that dollar makes a really important difference,” the city manager said. “That will provide tax relief…” Doubling the tax rate would move the city collection rate to one-half the allowable rate instead of one-quarter the state allowable rate now, Gurol told the Council. The money would pay for a plan to brand and market the community, upgrade downtown mobility, search for new office and hotel facilities, and hire a new and professional economic specialist employee to “focus more effort on business retention and recruitment, small business assistance, marketing and pursuing revenue generating business opportunities …” ‘Nobody likes tax increases’ Gurol said the change is a tax increase, “nobody likes tax increases … so I don’t make the proposal lightly, but we are making a reasoned proposal that does two things: one It perpetuates our current position – we are, in fact, a very low-taxed city and even after this, if approved by the Council, we will remain a low-taxed city from the B&O tax standpoint.” The increase will also allow for a “revenue stream” for increasing business opportunities in the city. “That revenue stream is related to the use – the source and the use are related,” Gurol said. “The source is coming from our businesses here – we thank them for that – the use will benefit our businesses here.” He said Burien will continue to be competitive with peer cities and showed a chart (below) of some other regional cities with Burien at the lowest rate of taxation but with Seattle and Des Moines at the maximum rate allowed under state law.

Click image to see larger version.
The proposal would mean “more jobs for Burien, more business success for Burien, a better image for Burien and economic development,” he said. Berkowitz objects “I see, for the third time, we’ve gone through this process, (and) we end up with something the Council finally agrees to look into what would be best practices for workers, (but) it is completely not represented anywhere in here,” Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz said. “I am not sure how I can support all of this support for what is good for business without anything to balance that is good for working families,” she told the Council. Berkowitz said she would like to have the proposed new development specialist “study and implement the best practices for labor … it is the only thing I don’t see reflected here. I think it would adequately represent the (Council’s) draft goals.” Gurol responded, “It is really up to the Council if you would like to have that as a work program priority …” He said a survey of citizens at a recent community forum did not find Berkowitz’s priorities listed. But she said “allowing the community … to choose our priorities would be great if it were a representative community, but I think that a comment heard many times at the forum was that it (labor) was not representative and, in spite of having tried to do community outreach, it just wasn’t representative of the community – it had a lot of the same faces, a few new faces but not as many as we hoped.” Gurol said the forum was asked to specify priorities and felt the list represented a first step in the economic goals of the city. Berkowitz said she could not support moving forward with the proposal because “huge swaths of our community were not invited” to participate in the community forum. “No one reached out to labor except me – I checked with many different unions and asked if that happened and no one was invited,” she said. “We are going to have this same conversation about whether businesses are the only people we need to talk to – are the only people that need to be represented at the table when we are making these decisions. “I can’t support a one-sided business goal – I think it is dangerous and doesn’t represent the best needs and the best interests of our city.” The city manager said he agreed with Berkowitz about the labor union’s lack of participation in the community forum. “It wasn’t for lack of trying, but I am not sure we are finding all the best techniques to effectively outreach to many sectors of our community.” Mayor Lucy Krakowiak said she is “comfortable about going forward with what we have here” and that changes could be made in 2015. No vote was taken on Monday night. Letters on Ordinance 606 The Council agenda noted that “each Councilmember has received approximately 1,392 emails from about a week ago, with basically the same content regarding repealing Ord. 606 …” or the trespass warning ordinance that the Washington State American Civil Liberties Union has asked the city to repeal. A sample letter from Mary Oehlerich, Olympia, was attached to the agenda:

“I am writing to urge you to repeal Ordinance No. 606. Instead of offering solutions for homelessness, it shuts down access to public spaces and criminalizes poor and homeless people. “The ordinance is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad,” Oehlerich wrote. “Courts in our state have repeatedly struck down laws that fail to provide reasonable notice of what conduct is prohibited or that set out vague standards, which invite arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement. Terms such as ‘unreasonably hostile or aggressive language or gestures,’ ‘unreasonably boisterous physical behavior,’ ‘unreasonably offensive bodily hygiene or scent,’ and ‘unreasonably inconsistent with normal use of public property’ are subjective and will lead to arbitrary enforcement. Homeless individuals, a parent needing to wash a small child, and a library patron with an unpleasant odor due to a medical condition could all be at risk for a criminal charge.”
Selling city land Councilmembers voted 5-0 (two members excused) to authorize sale of city owned property under the Sea-Tac Airport third runway. The property is in the Northeast Redevelopment Area and will be sold for $5 million to Long Gate Associates, which will purchase 12.4 acres consisting of a vacant parcel that was the site of former Sunny Terrace Elementary School. An adjacent parcel to the immediate west was purchased from the Maier estate. The city’s original reason for acquiring the property was for stormwater control and for redevelopment. The present sale is to have the area redeveloped, said Dan Trimble, the city’s economic development manager, adding he expected a sales agreement “in the next couple of weeks”. Condition of streets Joel Conder, co-owner of Capitol Asset and Pavement Services, Salem, Ore., told the Council his firm recently did a Pavement Condition Inventory of all 136.7 miles of the city’s streets. He said the city has a 74 PCI, or pavement condition index, out of a total of 100, which would be a brand new road. This number is determined by viewing all streets and their conditions put into a computer program. “We counted all the cracks, the patches and the distortions in the City of Burien,” Conder said. The study showed the city had a high “Pavement Condition Index, or “PBI” rating of 74 on a scale of 100. “Seventy-four is a good PCI,” said Conder, noting that not too many cities are over that rating. “One of the things I noticed is that Burien is seriously underfunding its needs,” he said, saying the current annual figure is $480,000 for a year, where typically the annual figure is $1.5 million to $2 million. Keeping the road system in good condition and “not letting them cycle down” is key, he said, adding the typical life cycle of asphalt pavement in the Northwest is “about 25 years” but maintenance can extend that life. The Council also heard recommendations for the city’s human services funding and the 2015 arts and culture grant recommendations. They did not vote on either package.]]>

Jack Mayne

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