The Burien City Council meeting was attended by 30 people. It did not have the high intensity of the last few weeks; the energy around the camping situation has dissipated.
The meeting’s first business item began with Chief Boe and Crime Analyst Jaime Arqueta presenting a new program. Chief Boe opened by asking the question: How do we fight crime?
On May 1, the city intends to initiate a new strategy called “Hot Blocks.” Hot Blocks breaks down the city into single blocks. Burien currently has 28 patrol officers. Patrols are primarily reactive rather than proactive. This begged the question, could the resource be used differently? Hot Blocks looks at heat maps to see areas with more crime, increasing highly visible police presence. Officers are dispatched every 90 minutes to a designated spot, parking there with lights on at that block for 12-15 minutes. According to Chief Boe and Jaime Arqueta (a crime analyst hired by the King County Sheriff’s office), this can help reduce crime. (In Dallas, it delivered a 7% reduction in violent crime.)
The Burien Police Department will target 3 blocks per month. They will measure impact and move to a new 3-block hot spot. The rotation will continue for 90 days, followed by an evaluation and report to the City Council. Adjustments will be made; then, another 90-day rotation will commence.
Mayor, Sofia Aragon reported her meeting at the mayors’ conference hosted by Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. The top two issues reported by the mayors were public safety and homeless, said Aragon. Aragon talked with Marc Dones, CEO of the King County Regional Homeless Authority.
Dones said the KCRHA team would come to Burien and make an assessment, get to know the people, and then find places for them. They said it would take time, three weeks after they start (which will not be immediate). Dones and the KCRHA team want to meet with the Burien City Council in one month to focus on the issues at 6th and 152nd.
City Manager Adolfo Bailon said the city staff has had an ongoing conversation with KCRHA, which they will continue. The staff has worked on these for a long time; it is at the forefront and will continue to be. Bailon said he has been surveying other nearby city managers, and no beds are available in any city.
Bailon also reported on the city land currently occupied by the tent campers: the lot is not leased. The camp has generated a great deal of interest. The city has yet to receive any actual proposal. They have a two-week timeline once offers come in, ensuring the city gets the “biggest bang for their buck.” Bailon indicated they do not want to make a knee-jerk reaction due to the present situation. The city manager also suggested that the city council would likely make the final decision.
Matt Hobson from FCS Group, an entity hired by the city as a consultant, presented a grim picture of the city’s finances. Burien has been running around a $2,000,000 deficit yearly for the last few years. Reserves are being depleted and will be gone by 2025. The current level of expenditures will have an annual budget deficit of $2,800,000 by 2032.
Hobson put forward three options that would close the current gap with no increases in staff or services. Hobson identified an increase in the B&O tax from 0.1% to 0.2%, raising $1.7 million. Plus, an increased tax on water and sewer utilities from 8% to 10%, raising $400,000. Finally, building and planning permit fees increase, raising $100,000.
Hobson said he tries to look 10 years into the future, using the 2023 and 2024 budgets as starting points. To build new budgets for 2025 and further, he projected an annual sales tax increase of 3.5%, a property tax revenue of 1.9% increase year over year, and a labor expense increase of 3%, projecting operating at a deficit from ’23 through ’32.
The council then began to talk about voter-approved levied lid lift. Without increased revenue, there will have to be staff cuts.
There was no serious discussion about cuts being an option.
A motion directing staff to develop proposals for voter-approved tax increases was passed.
Yeas: Hugo Garcia, Cydney Moore, Sara Moore, and Kevin Schilling
Nays: Stephanie Mora
Abstention: Mayor Aragon and Jimmy Matta
Regarding the censoring or removal of Charles Schaefer and Cydney Moore from the Planning Commission and City Council, respectively, concerning their actions on March 30 & 31 in the tent encampment move from city hall to the current encampment at 6th and 152nd: the council asked that a statement issued by the city clarifies Charles Schaefer and Cydney Moore acted in their own interest and not on behalf of the city.