Council Roundup: October 4, 2021

Native Land and People Acknowledgment, Proclamations, Budget, Comprehensive Plan, Utility Tax Relief
Posted on 10/07/2021
Zoning Map and aerial view of town.

The Burien City Council issued four proclamations, discussed a Native Land and People acknowledgment, reviewed work plans for the Parks and Recreation Board and Arts Commission, began mid-biennium budget discussions, discussed a redesigned utility tax relief program, discussed amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, and reviewed an amendment to the operating agreement between the City of Burien and King County Library System.

Proclamations Celebrate Culture and Community, Raise Awareness about Mental Health and Domestic Violence

The City Council issued four proclamations celebrating culture and community as well as raising awareness about mental health and domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The City Council issued a proclamation in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Angela Dannenbring, executive director of Domestic Abuse Women's Network (DAWN) accepted the proclamation.

“DAWN and the City of Burien have a long-standing relationship,” said Dannebring. “Our purpose has been to provide advocacy and support services that empower individuals, families, and community, and our vision is to live in peaceful communities.”

Mental Illness Awareness Week

The City Council issued a proclamation in honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week. Paul Charbonneau, Ending the Silence Coordinator, National Alliance on Mental Illness – South King County, accepted a proclamation for Mental Illness Awareness Week.

“We have been really proud this year to start offering our programs in south King County” said Charbonneau. “The demand for [our programs] has been the highest in our organization’s history during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Italian American Heritage Month

The City Council issued a proclamation in honor of Italian American Heritage Month. Three representatives from Casa Italiana - Italian Cultural Center accepted the proclamation: Joe Megale, Board Member, Martin Nigrelle, President, and Brian DiJulio, Vice-President.

“I don’t think anyone anticipated how many opportunities there would be when we purchased the property to actually get involved in Burien,” said Nigrelle. “This proclamation actually is that much more meaningful because of your recognition of our facility.”

Guatemala Day

In honor of the bicentennial of Guatemala’s independence from Spain, the City Council declared August 4, 2021 “Guatemala Day”. Claudia Gatica de Moreno, Consul General, Consulado de Guatemala, accepted the proclamation.

“On behalf of the Guatemalans residing in Burien and throughout Washington State, I want to express to you that that this is an historic act that our community has desired for many years,” said Gatica de Moreno.

She also recognized the following organizations that serve the local Guatemalan community: Unidos por Guatemala, Voluntarios por Guatemala, Chapines en Seattle, Folklore Guatemala-Seattle, and Mesa Comunitaria Guatemalteca.

Native Land and People Acknowledgment Introduced

Staff presented drafts of a Native Land and People Acknowledgment for the Burien City Council to consider. The City Council will discuss it again at a study session this fall.

Work Plans for Parks and Recreation Board and Arts Commission Discussed

Advisory board and commission chairs presented suggested 2021-2022 work plans for the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Arts Commission. Both work plans were placed on the consent agenda for the next City Council meeting.

Parks and Recreation Advisory Board

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board provided feedback to staff on the proposed parks and recreation fee study. In 2022, they will provide feedback on the 2023-2024 biennial budget and recommend capital projects to be included in the biennial budget.  Next year, the City will begin a public outreach effort on revision of the Parks Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Plan, and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will support community engagement and weigh in with their own feedback. They will also evaluate a set of new youth programs and share funding opportunities and partnership ideas for PaRCS Department programs.

Arts Commission

The Arts Commission is developing a long-range public art plan to guide their decisions on use of the Art in Public Places Fund. They are also identifying maintenance needs for existing public art. The Arts Commission will continue to recommend allocation of the City’s Arts and Culture Grants. Other work plan activities include staying updated on the development of a Burien Creative District, advocating for youth art programs with Highline Public Schools, assisting with arts events such as Arts-a-Glow, researching a possible new Youth Poet Laureate program, and continuing to advise the City Council and other boards and commissions on policies related to the arts.

First Mid-biennium Budget Update Delivered, New Financial Policies for 2022

Staff presented the first of a series of presentations on the 2022 mid-biennium budget update. There will be four more City Council meetings (October 18, November 1, November 15, and December 6) where the budget will be discussed. Community members are invited to weigh in by providing public comment at one of the four scheduled public meetings or emailing comments to [email protected]. The mid-biennium budget update is scheduled to be adopted this December.

The key themes of the 2021-2022 Adopted Budget were maintaining the City’s financially sound position, continuing to support programs and services, and addressing the pending structural imbalance, forecasted to begin in 2026 and caused by expenditures outpacing limited revenues. Steps were taken last year to protect the City’s financial position, including reducing expenditures, implementing new utility taxes and rental housing license fees, and increasing business license fees. While some revenues dropped last year, such as recreation program fees, gambling tax, planning review and development charges, and investment interest, overall, revenues have increased, with sales tax revenues now above pre-pandemic levels. Even though revenues are improving, there is still financial risk as the pandemic is far from over.

Mid-biennium updates usually only implement minor updates and technical adjustments to the adopted two-year budget. However, because the City is in a stronger financial position than was originally forecasted, this year’s mid-biennium budget is pivoting to address unfulfilled community and city needs.

Specifically, staff is recommending the following:

  • New staff positions to address increased demands for programs and services.
  • Cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to salaries of non-union staff. Staff did not receive a COLA in 2020.
  • Increase to supplies and professional services budgets.
  • Capital projects increase, including funding for a shared Public Works and Parks maintenance facility.

Staff have also begun to make recommendations for use of the $10.8 million the City received through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). There will be ongoing communication with the City Council and the community on the use of that funding.

Utility Tax Relief Program

The City Council placed on the consent agenda updates to the City’s Utility Tax Relief Program. The program updates are designed to increase accessibility, expand eligibility for the program, and reduce the amount of paperwork both community members and staff must collect and track. Specifically, the new program will:

  • Include tax relief for both water and sewer utilities.
  • Expand tax relief for cellular telephone service.
  • Expand eligible households to those indirectly billed for utility services paid by a landlord, maintenance association, or third party that is paying these charges and passing the expense to the tenants.
  • Change the utility tax relief amount from a "reimbursement process" to an annual predetermined "rebate" amount, calculated by an annual average of the utility tax paid in the prior fiscal year.
  • Redesign the application process to improve accessibility and produce it in multiple languages.
  • Execute a comprehensive communication plan to increase participation.

Details of the new program and application form will be launched by mid-October. Rebates are scheduled to be delivered in December.

Comprehensive Plan Updates Address Housing, Environment, and Equity

The City Council placed four annual updates to the Comprehensive Plan on the next meeting’s consent agenda. The updates include approving incorporating the Housing Action Plan and the Green Burien Partnership Urban Forest Stewardship Plan by reference. A new minimum density policy to address underdevelopment of land will help the City meet regional goals and targets. And a new race and social equity policy policies aims to reduce disproportionate negative impacts of policies and programs to historically marginalized communities.

Community Development staff create and maintain the City’s Comprehensive Plan, which is a 20-year master plan establishing the city’s long-term goals and managing growth in the city. Proposed amendments to the Comprehensive Plan are carefully considered every year.

City and Library Staff to Have Dedicated Parking in Underground Parking Lot at Burien City Hall

A new operating agreement between the City and King County Library system will designate Burien City Hall’s underground parking lot for City and Library staff, as well as short-term parking for City fleet vehicles.

Holiday Lights Returning to Burien Town Square

The City Council expressed support for an early implementation of the City’s annual holiday lights installation in Burien’s Town Square Park. The goal is to attract more people to Burien’s downtown area, supporting local businesses in advance of the holiday shopping season.