Council Roundup: October 5, 2020

Budget, New Taxes, Storm Drainage Plan, Black Lives Matter Artwork, Compostables
Posted on 10/06/2020
Rendering of Habitat for Humanity proposed project.

Council approved funding for human services and parks capital projects, discussed their 2021 federal legislative priorities, reviewed updates to the Storm Drainage Master Plan, and discussed the 2021-22 budget and new water and sewer utility taxes. They discussed a new affordable housing development, directed the Arts Commission to explore the placement of a Black Lives Matter artwork in a public place, and delayed the effective start date on the ban on non-compostable food service products.

Council discussed and placed several items on the consent agenda to be approved at the October 19, 2020 meeting. The Council usually has a “two-touch” process and will often place items on the consent agenda to be approved at the next regularly scheduled meeting.

Burien's 2019 Citizens of the Year.


Council honored the 2019 citizens of the year Grace Stiller and Pastor Jenny Partch and Pastor Lina Thompson.

Council issued a proclamation declaring the week of October 12 as Affordable Housing Week.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to Support Programs in Burien

After holding a public hearing, Council approved the use of Burien’s 2021 Community Development Block Grant funding.

The City of Burien will receive approximately $286,230 in fiscal year 2021 from the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. These funds must be used for planning and administration (up to 20 percent), human services (up to 15 percent), and capital projects (balance goes to capital projects) that serve low-moderate income Burien residents. One of the projects the funding will support is a new HVAC system for the Burien Community Center.

2021 Federal Legislative Priorities

Council discussed their 2021 federal legislative priorities, placing their approval on the consent agenda for the next meeting.

The City Council establishes state and federal legislative priorities every year. These agendas reflect the Council’s priorities. A legislative agenda enables staff and the City’s contract lobbyists to advocate and support legislation that benefits the City of Burien government and the Burien community.  

Stormwater accumulating on a Burien road.

Storm Drainage Master Plan Updated

Council discussed updates to the City’s Storm Drainage Master Plan. The plan was placed on the consent agenda for the October 19, 2020 meeting.

In 2018, City staff began working on an update to the plan, which details the operations and capital needs for the City’s Surface Water Management Program. The purpose of this update is to identify the future needs to the City’s stormwater program, including documenting areas where drainage and water quality can be improved, updating the capital project list, and identifying the actions and staff demands for both the current and future regulatory requirements.

This update outlines the programmatic, operational, and capital construction activities to guide the City’s stormwater program over the next five to ten years. Topics addressed include updates to the City’s NPDES Phase II Stormwater Permit, aging stormwater infrastructure, and operations and maintenance activities, among others.

SEPA review has recently been completed and the plan is ready for adoption. References to the plan in the Burien Comprehensive Plan will be modified in conjunction with the Comprehensive Plan update scheduled for 2021.

New Water and Sewer Utility Taxes

Council placed on the October 19, 2020 consent agenda the adoption of an 8 percent tax on local water and sewer utility districts. Local districts can choose whether to pass an increased fee on to their customers. The new tax will go into effect January 1, 2021.

This tax will provide a new and stable revenue source to help fund important programs and services. Staff is exploring how to add water and utility tax to the Burien Utility Tax Relief Program for low-income households.

Image of City Hall with budget icon overlaid.

2021–2022 Preliminary Operating Budget

The City Manager and Finance Director presented the 2021-2022 Preliminary Operating Budget. The proposed budget is balanced and includes the required reserves. It also reflects some difficult staffing and operational decisions, as well as enhancements in key areas that meet community needs.

The proposed police budget holds steady, except for the loss of the School Resource Officer because Highline Public Schools canceled the contract. Burien Police Department costs are the lowest per resident and Burien has the second lowest crime rate in south King County behind Normandy Park. The investments that have been made in human services and collaborative policing models will continue.

Several 2020 planning projects will also continue, including visioning for the Ambaum Corridor and Boulevard Park neighborhoods. These projects are necessary to promote the long-term health and economic vitality of those neighborhoods. Design work will begin on a new public works and parks maintenance facility, Moshier Park field and restrooms will see improvements, and sidewalk improvements on 136th St will proceed.

The City’s largest sources of revenue are property tax, sales tax, and utility tax. New taxes and fees will help address a budget shortfall, including rental housing business license fees ($130,000), water and sewer utility tax ($1.6 million), business license fees ($300,000), and 1 percent increase in property tax.

Expenditures were reduced by 2.5 percent compared to the original forecasted expenditures.

Council will discuss the budget over the next three months (see Budget Calendar). Three public hearings are scheduled, and the community is encouraged to provide feedback. Department directors, including the police chief, will present their proposed budgets on October 26. The budget is scheduled to be adopted on December 7.

How do budgets get approved?

Burien is a council-manager form of government, which means that only Councilmembers as a group have the authority to approve the budget. Staff develop a proposed budget and the city manager and finance director present this budget to council. This is different than cities that have a strong mayor form of government, like some our larger neighboring cities.

How can you stay informed and provide feedback on the budget?

  • Learn: Read the preliminary budget, watch council meetings, and read Council Roundups (summaries of each council meeting published within the same week of the meeting.)
  • Comment: Email your councilmembers directly at [email protected]. Or, attend a public hearing via Zoom and provide public comment (

Habitat for Humanity to Build Affordable Housing using New City Program

Council placed on the consent agenda the selection of a project proposed by Habitat for Humanity as one of the City’s five affordable housing demonstration projects. There are currently no other applications for projects.

Habitat for Humanity is proposing a new housing development owner-occupied townhomes across 3.5 acres in central Burien. The homes will be considered affordable for people making 50 percent area median income (AMI). Planning has just begun, and construction could start as early as fall 2021. The development will include a community center and playground or play space, two fully accessible units, and 43 parking spaces. There will be consideration of critical areas, existing trees, increasing tree buffer next to State Route 509, vehicular and pedestrian access, community center, and open space.

The homes are reserved exclusively for home ownership by first-time home buyers. They will use a land trust program, with a fixed home price and a fixed appreciation value at 1.5 percent to ensure the permanent affordability of unit and entire development. There is also a sweat equity component, and volunteer labor will be used to keep building costs low.

The Affordable Housing Demonstration Program, launched in 2019, provides incentives and flexibility for the development of affordable housing during a defined period, providing the City with an opportunity to evaluate potential barriers to the construction of affordable housing and make recommendations on changes to development regulations.

Discussion of Potential Black Lives Matter (BLM) Artwork Installation

Council directed the Arts Commission to lead the development, with community input, of a Black Lives Matter artwork in a public space in Burien.

The original proposal asked for the installation of a Black Lives Matter artwork in the roadway on 153rd St in downtown Burien. Staff presented concerns about traffic safety with the original proposal and offered alternative solutions.

Icons displaying compostable and styrofoam containers.

Businesses Given More Time to Prepare for Ban on Non-compostable Food Serviceware

Council showed support for a delay to the effective date of Ordinance 709, which restricts the use and sale of non-compostable food service products. The ordinance, adopted on February 3, 2020, was originally set to go into effect January 1, 2021. A new effective of July 1, 2021 was proposed.

After the law was passed, City staff prepared an outreach plan to educate businesses about the ban, provide information about the types of products that are banned or allowed, and assist with questions about potential product sources and other issues. Zero Waste Washington also received a grant to assist the City with this outreach.

In March, when the City declared an emergency as a result of COVID-19, communications resources were shifted to other priorities and public health orders made it difficult to conduct in-person outreach. Last week, in-person outreach resumed, and it showed that significantly more outreach is needed to prepare businesses for the new law.

Just as staff have struggled to find time and resources to implement the outreach process, businesses have struggled to find the staff time and funds needed to begin the investigation and purchasing necessary to prepare for the new ban. Many businesses have been struggling with reduced income and increased operational requirements to stay open during COVID-19. The pandemic has also caused supply shortages across a variety of goods, including compostable food service products.