North Highline residents gathered at Dubsea Coffee on July 12 to learn more about Burien's proposed annexation of the area. In the inset, the graph of a sales tax credit that has caused some controversy. PLEASE CLICK TO THE NEXT IMAGE FOR A LARGER VERSION OF THE GRAPH.
Tax credits, code enforcement and the North Highline voice discussed at Burien’s second annexation meeting
Fireworks continued to fly at the second Burien-sponsored North Highline annexation meeting on July 12 as Burien City Manager Mike Martin sparred with an anti-annexation contingent over whether or not a full $5 million tax credit for the area is guaranteed.
According to state and local officials, the credit is guaranteed unless the state legislature decided to cut it out of the budget.
Martin has said flat-out that Burien will receive the full credit over the next ten years unless the state legislature cuts the annexation credit program entirely from their budget (State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon said that is highly unlikely). He said the city will not have problems illustrating the need for the full credit over that time and that Washington State “wants you to spend the money to make annexation successful.”
Rep. Fitzgibbon, representing Burien and parts of North Highline, reiterated Martin’s position in an email, writing, “I think there has been a fair amount of misinformation out there on this subject. Under current law, Burien would receive the full $5 million tax credit for all 10 years. I think it is not at all likely that the Legislature would revoke the tax credit after annexation passes.”
Fitzgibbon then took it a step further, saying anything less than the $5 million would require a change at the state level:
“If the Legislature were going to eliminate the annexation tax credit, we would have done it this year. The state Office of Financial Management has factored the potential of the tax credit into their long-term budget projections. It would require a statutory change (which is extremely unlikely) for Burien to receive anything less than $5 million. I’m not sure why the Berk Report would have said otherwise.”
Opponents, citing page 23 in the final version the 2011 Berk Report (available at Burien’s website) on the feasibility of annexation, say the city’s own report shows projections of receiving less than $5 million for each of those ten years (which is true, the projected credit in the report, year to year, ranges from $4.5 to just under $3 million).
Burien City Councilmember Gerald Robison explained the variation shown in that model “depends entirely on how you handle your budgeting for the annexed area and how much revenue comes from the annexed area. If revenues are low and costs are high there is a bigger credit (and vice versa)…,”
In a follow-up conversation, Burien Finance Director Kim Krause said the authors of the Berk Report understood the law, but there financial modeling did not take into account Burien’s plan to illustrate the need for the full $5 million over those ten years.
Whatever amount that credit ends up being, and at least according to state (Rep. Fitzgibbon) and local (Martin) officials it will be $5 million, Burien said the money has to be spent in North Highline on “operational needs” (as opposed to being spread out for all of Burien or spent on capitol improvements like roads), and will likely be used to pay for their policing contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office, estimated at about $6 million a year by Martin. He said property and other taxes collected from North Highline will account for an additional $5-6 million in revenue that will go back into needs for the annexed area.
Tougher code enforcement
North Highline residents from Top Hat and White Center asked how Burien will approach both residential and commercial code enforcement.
“The question was on code enforcement … we live in Top Hat, we got junk cars around, we have trash, we call people and they don’t do anything (Martin reiterating the question for the crowd). Code enforcement is very touchy stuff because one person’s junk car is another neighbor’s project for their 16-year-old son … the short answer is we have a policy in Burien that says our code enforcement is reactive, so we don’t go out looking for stuff, but we don’t have to because people call us,” Martin said, adding the city will likely add additional code officers if annexation goes through.
Elizabeth Gordon from Uncle Mike’s BBQ in White Center asked Martin about enforcement along 16th Ave S.W., specifically enforcing open container laws, parking enforcement and smoking on the sidewalks.
“I can just tell you there is going to be more (enforcement) …,” Martin said. “There has to be a cultural shift here … there has been a very laissez faire attitude towards the way people conduct themselves in that part of town. The community is changing now, as the community let’s us know how they want to change we will be responsive to that.
“We would go up there, we would try to inform people and try to educate, and then we would try to change things in the way that is consistent with what the community wants,” he added.
Promise of North Highline voices being heard
Burien Councilmember Robison addressed the crowd with a promise of receptiveness.
“One of the things that makes a big difference is right now (North Highline) represents something under four percent of the population of unincorporated King County and under one percent of the population served by the King County Council, so you get an idea of how much of an influence you can have on what government is doing in this area,” Robison said.
“This area will represent approximately 30 percent of the population of Burien, so you can expect a much bigger response … when you have concerns in the community,” he added.
Martin said a North Highline resident could feasibly sit on the city council in the November elections of 2013, one year after the residents vote on becoming part of Burien.
A Burien resident opposed to annexation countered Robison’s statement on representation, saying “We are a small city and we don’t have a lot of people, we don’t have a lot of staff or resources where as King County is a very big entity with a lot of people and a lot of resources. So you guys have to judge for yourselves …”
Upcoming annexation information meetings
August 23: White Center Food Bank, 10829 8th Ave SW, 6 pm
September 13: Beverly Park Elementary School, cafeteria, 1201 S. 104th Street, 6 pm
October 18: Cascade Middle School, cafeteria, 11212 10th Ave SW, 6 pm
The City will have an annexation-information booth July 21 at the Jubilee Days Street Fair in White Center. Staff will be there 10 am - 8 pm to answer questions and pass out informational brochures including copies in Spanish, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Somali.
To read about the first annexation meeting, please click here.
Photo gallery for this story