By Nicholas Johnson
Burien’s metropolis council obtained its first look Monday at a proposed mid-biennium funds improve made doable by one-time federal COVID-19 stimulus funding in addition to greater-than-expected revenues from gross sales taxes and Seattle Metropolis Mild franchise charges.
“This isn’t your regular mid-bi,” Rebecca Hodge, a monetary analyst for town, informed the council throughout its Oct. 4 assembly. “We are literally taking a pivot to deal with neighborhood and metropolis wants as a result of stronger than anticipated monetary place.”
For the present yr, workers are proposing a 12 p.c Basic Fund spending improve of almost $3.6 million. For 2022, a further $3.5 million in spending is proposed, representing an 11.6 p.c improve over beforehand budgeted expenditures.
“That is council’s funds,” mentioned Metropolis Supervisor Brian Wilson. “We’ve tried to craft this suggestion in line with the priorities that council has established.
“In all probability the most important success,” Wilson mentioned, is the advice to extend town’s Capital Partnership Reserve from $7 million to $9 million to pay for work associated to planning and establishing a upkeep facility to be used by public works in addition to parks, recreation and cultural companies.
Cash obtained by means of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) could possibly be used to pay for a lot of advisable expenditures in each years, together with new hires, community safety infrastructure enhancements, a cyber safety danger evaluation and contracted downtown-area positions together with an outreach care coordinator and a psychological well being skilled.
As proposed, about $1.7 million within the metropolis’s ARPA funds could be used by means of 2022, leaving about $9 million, all of which have to be dedicated by 2024 and spent by 2026.
Councilor Sofia Aragon mentioned she’s curious whether or not and the way ARPA funds could possibly be used to boost range, fairness and inclusion efforts on the metropolis. As presently proposed, some $40,000 in one-time, non-ARPA funds would pay for a advisor and workers coaching on these matters in 2022.
Largely as a result of inflow of ARPA funds, the proposed funds exhibits a income improve of almost $7.2 million in 2021 and greater than $6 million in 2022, mentioned Finance Director Eric Christensen.
“The town is in a stronger place than initially budgeted throughout COVID-19,” he mentioned.
Past ARPA in 2021, Seattle Metropolis Mild franchise charges have generated some $320,000 thanks partly to a fee improve permitted by council in 2020, human companies has seen almost $570,000 in grant income and gross sales tax revenues are “on monitor to be the very best yr ever within the metropolis” at almost $1.16 million.
However, near-term monetary danger stays as a result of continued unfold of COVID-19 and the ensuing impacts to companies and shopper conduct, Christensen mentioned. On prime of that, town’s monetary mannequin stays structurally imbalanced, which means rising expenditures are outpacing restricted revenues, which turns into notably stark after ARPA funds are taken out of the equation.
“There’s a have to reassess the monetary place in 2026,” Christensen mentioned. “With none expenditure reductions, income will increase or a mixture of expenditure reductions and income will increase, town should depend on its fund stability to offset the working deficits.”
In response to this similar concern, in addition to the affect of shedding about $1 million yearly with the expiration of the annexation gross sales tax credit score, town council in 2020 tied annual computerized rental housing inspection payment will increase to the buyer worth index, permitted a doubling of enterprise license charges and adopted an 8 p.c tax on water-and-sewer utility suppliers.
Throughout Monday night’s assembly, the council unanimously permitted an enlargement of town’s utility tax aid program to incorporate water-and-sewer utility taxpayers, amongst others, together with those that are not directly billed for utilities by landlords or others. The adjustments usually intention to make this system extra accessible, particularly contemplating that participation is presently “very, very low” at 75 to 90 households collaborating yearly, based on Administrative Providers Director Cathy Schrock.
Trying on the metropolis’s monetary state of affairs in 2026 and past, based mostly on projections by means of 2030 that assume no adjustments to revenues or expenditures, town can anticipate an working deficit of $556,000 in 2026, rising to $2.8 million in 2030, in addition to the depletion of town supervisor’s reserve fund in 2029.
Although workers should not recommending actions to spice up revenues or reduce bills as a part of this yr’s mid-biennium funds replace, they did acknowledge some choices for council consideration, equivalent to an additional improve to the water-and-sewer utility tax and a rise within the business-and-occupation tax.
Workers additionally famous a number of voter-dependent income choices, equivalent to a public security gross sales tax, a property tax levy, a metropolitan parks district and a rise in utility taxes particular to telephones, cell telephones, electrical energy and pure gasoline.
“I believe it’s clear that we have to work to deal with enhancements to income that’s not solely based mostly on inserting income will increase on households however that focuses on financial exercise,” councilor Kevin Schilling mentioned, calling for a rise in housing improvement to bolster property tax revenues in addition to a rise in enterprise exercise to gas gross sales tax revenues.
“We have to improve these income sources as a result of they’re the 2 principal income drivers of municipalities,” he mentioned.
Altering single-family zoning to permit for higher density is essential to growing housing choices and stimulating native enterprise exercise, Schilling mentioned, noting that he’s not presently in favor of a property tax levy in mild of the monetary affect of the COVID-19 pandemic on householders.
Declaring that Burien has not seen job progress in a number of years, Wilson agreed that job creation and financial improvement are wanted to bolster property tax and gross sales tax revenues. He famous town’s plans to pursue zoning adjustments in particular areas – equivalent to at entrances to town – to encourage increased density improvement, and he talked about that the proposed spending will increase embrace $50,000 for a industrial improvement demonstration challenge related in idea to town’s reasonably priced housing demonstration program.
Schilling known as that “an extremely inventive and fascinating concept” that “needs to be mobilized and applied as quickly as doable,” noting that he’s additionally occupied with exploring a levy on undeveloped or underdeveloped industrial land.
“We’ve quite a lot of undeveloped and underdeveloped privately owned industrial property in Burien and we have to get on it,” Schilling mentioned. “The best way to nudge the house owners of this property is to say, ‘Nicely, in the event you’re not going to do something with it, we’re going to attempt to get you to by levying the truth that you’re not doing something with it.”
Each councilors Schilling and Nancy Tosta mentioned they consider the council must spend extra time working by means of the present funds proposal and choices for reaching a balanced funds past 2026.
“It’s so much to digest,” Tosta mentioned of the proposed mid-biennium funds.
“That is large,” Schilling mentioned. “We as a council want to debate this extra. If we’re a decline in revenues and our monetary place turns into troublesome, we have to as a council spend extra time collectively.”
The council is about to proceed its dialogue of the proposed funds replace on Oct. 18 when a public listening to on the proposal may even be held. One other public listening to and continued council dialogue is about for Nov. 1, adopted by the introduction of an ordinance Nov. 15 and potential council adoption that ordinance Dec. 6.
Nicholas Johnson (he/him) is an award-winning author, editor and photographer who grew up in Boulevard Park, graduated from Highline Excessive College and studied journalism at Western Washington College. Ship information ideas, story concepts and constructive vibes to [email protected].