Council Roundup: October 26, 2020

Budget, Parks Risk Assessment, City Council Meeting Guidelines
Posted on 10/29/2020
2021-2022 Budget graphic

Council held a study session to discuss City Council Meeting Guidelines, parks risk assessment, and heard presentations from department directors on details of their 2021–2022 Budget proposals.

Close up of a checklist document with a pen.

Council Continues Discussion of Council Meeting Guidelines

Council followed up on a previous in-depth discussion on updates to the Burien City Council Meeting Guidelines. They will discuss the guidelines again at the November 2 meeting.

A tree where a dead branch has broken off.

Challenges and Risks in Burien Parks

Council discussed an assessment of the current conditions of Burien’s parks by Carolyn Hope, director of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services (PaRCS) department. The assessment evaluates various elements of risk in parks including manmade and natural elements, park uses, regulatory requirements, funding, and staffing. The outcomes show how additional funding and staffing could provide investment in parks that can reduce risks, physical failures, and negative behaviors in parks.

One of the challenges highlighted is that 93 percent of Burien parks are covered by trees, many of which are in hazardous condition. Without a staff arborist, it is difficult to keep up with maintenance demands. Another example of risks to positive park use, is the challenge of keeping up with garbage, litter, graffiti and vandalism.  More than 35 percent of parks maintenance time is spent addressing these issues and this work is necessary to maintain a clean, safe, and beautiful park system for the community to enjoy.

The PaRCS Department will use the data from this analysis to prioritize work and project funding and to continue conversations with the City Council about long-term funding solutions for the operating and capital budgets.

Photos of Burien City Councilmembers imposed over illustration of Burien City Hall.

Department Directors Reveal Tough Choices for Burien’s Budget

Council heard for the first time detailed budget proposals from each department. The City’s department directors presented their proposed budgets and identified the key goals and initiatives for their departments. They also identified areas of struggle as staff adapted to new ways of doing business under Public Health orders, ways that their department can continue to innovate, and opportunities for improvement in the coming years.

The major theme of this budget is addressing the structural imbalance caused by the loss of the Sales Tax Annexation Credit and economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. Each department was asked to find ways to make operations more efficient, reduce expenses, and grow revenues. No staff will receive a cost of living increase in 2021 and all staff will be required to take unpaid furlough days in 2021. Staffing is proposed to be reduced by 17 percent. The City of Burien already operates with 30-40 percent less staff than other cities with similar population sizes. These reductions will stress the City’s ability to deliver services.

The City is actively seeking grants and other revenue sources to keep human services and youth programs funded and is seeking federal and state sources of funding for essential parks, transportation, and infrastructure maintenance and improvements.

The City is required to present a budget where ongoing revenues are balanced with ongoing expenditures and 20 percent of the General Fund is set aside. When the economy improves, the City will seek to rebuild services and programs that have been temporarily reduced.

View the department presentations.