Council Roundup: October 15, 2018

Tenant Protections, Budget, LEAD and Community Court
Posted on 10/19/2018
Burien City Council.

Welcome to the first Council Roundup. The purpose of this new communication is to provide a timely summary of Council meetings and include links to additional supporting information about Council decisions.

Council meeting minutes will continue to be posted after they are approved at the following Council meeting. Video of the Council meetings will continue to be made available within 24 hours of the meeting.

Fox Cove Apartments

City Manager Wilson presented actions that had been taken since October 1, when Council had directed staff to develop options for assisting residents of Fox Cove Apartments facing eviction. A team including Mary’s Place Outreach Specialist, Multi-Service Center Housing Director, and the City’s Human Services Manager are meeting Fox Cove tenants to begin working with families on a relocation plan. Planning includes helping to identify and address barriers, assist with acquiring documentation, finding available units, working with families to transfer housing vouchers, and helping families to relocate. Efforts will focus on working with other community providers to leverage resources to assist the families in need.

Council voted to move forward with three recommendations to address the short-term needs of residents facing eviction:

  • Contract with Multi-Service Center and provide $8,645.00 in funding for a ½ time employee to assist Fox Cove and Burien residents for the remainder of the year. In addition to the 36 families present in Fox Cove, remaining time would be dedicated to assisting Burien residents faced with similar circumstances.
  • The City would contract with MSC and provide $18,000.00 in funding for 10 hours per week of housing navigator/diversion specialist services for Burien residents in 2019.
  • Match $9,000 of funds raised by the Ecumenical Circle to assist the residents of the Fox Cove apartments with moving and/or relocation expenses. The City would partner with the Ecumenical Circle in finding financial technical assistance (funding design, criteria, and process) in order to disburse these funds to those in need.

Because a public works engineer position has remain unfilled, there is a one-time fund balance that can be applied to relocation assistance.

Tenant Protection Policies

Council voted to direct the City Manager to engage community stakeholders for recommendation of a tenant protection program for inclusion in the Burien Municipal Code. In order to give time to gather community and stakeholder feedback, action plan won’t be presented until first quarter 2019.

State and Federal Legislative Priorities

The City Council establishes state and federal legislative priorities every year. These agendas reflect the priorities of the Council in order to support legislation that addresses Council interests and areas of concerns. A legislative agenda enables staff and the City’s contract lobbyists to advocate and support legislation that benefits the City of Burien and its residents. Council approved the federal legislative agenda on October 15, 2018. The state legislative agenda will be discussed again on October 22, 2018.

LEAD and Community Court

Staff presented information about LEAD and Community Court, two programs that address the problem of repeatedly cycling through the criminal justice system individuals charged with non-violent misdemeanors who experience mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and extreme poverty. For these individuals, the criminal justice system–the intent of which is to punish and deter criminal behavior–isn’t working. It isn’t working because the criminal justice system doesn’t address the root causes of the criminal behavior: substance abuse, mental health issues, poverty, and homelessness. These individuals are repeatedly arrested, booked, released, and the cycle repeats with no change in the behavior.

Under the Burien LEAD program, the Burien Police Department will be the “gatekeeping” agency responsible for both arrest diversions and social contact referrals to LEAD. However, Community Court will be available to anyone seeking its services, not simply those charged with an eligible misdemeanor. The only cost to the City of Burien to participate in LEAD or Community Court is an extra half day of prosecutor time. There are potential cost savings in the form of reduced booking and jail costs. The programs also potentially offer ancillary benefits, freeing up valuable police resources to perform more proactive community policing. These two programs are funded by King County, and the City is tailoring each program to the City’s specific needs.

Council gave staff direction to continue to explore these two programs for Burien.

2019–2020 Budget

In 2020, the City is losing the sales tax annexation credit (the additional sales tax revenue provided by Washington State when Burien annexed North Highline in 2010). The cost of services is also rising faster than the growth in revenues. These two forces will create a structural imbalance in the City’s budget starting in 2021 if action is not taken.
Council also discussed the Capital Improvement Program (CIP), the short-range plan that identifies capital projects and equipment purchases. You can view the CIP on page 4-3 of the proposed 2019–2020 budget.

There are a number of unfunded needs for parks and transportation projects in the CIP. The largest unfunded need is the joint public works and parks maintenance and operations facility. The City’s federal and state lobbyists were directed to seek grant funds to support the construction of the facility.

The City will be funding projects that address transportation issues in specific areas of Burien, including: future pavement and sidewalk improvements, upgrades to signal controls, traffic calming, and projects to increase accessibility for people with disabilities. The City will also be addressing surface water issues across the community. Parks improvements that are fully funded include: a feasibility study for Seahurst Park roadside parking improvements and adding a unisex bathroom to the Burien Community Center.
Council also heard about revenue sources, including a possible increase of up to one percent in property tax revenue, and expenditures for the 2019-2020 Preliminary Budget prior to its adoption. Council directed staff to gather Council feedback via a matrix on three issues: raising City staff minimum wage to $15 per hour, SCORE jail contract, and King County Sheriff Office’s police contract.

The Council authorized staff to seek assistance from a financial consulting firm to help with addressing the structural imbalance and to develop a long-term strategy for sustaining our City’s financial health. The FCS Group specialize in helping local governments address and solve issues involving public finance. They have a broad understanding and level of expertise in how the governmental functions are performed and in how local governments set and implement policies. The FCS Group will work closely with staff to understand the City's unique financial challenges and opportunities and will provide the City with a plan that can help the City respond as future financial conditions and policy direction evolve.