The following is a letter to the City Manager from a Burien resident:
To The Burien City Council and the City Manager:
1. Right now, the city of Burien government is in a conundrum about how to handle its upcoming deficit budget. This was precipitated suddenly by the actions of Council member Cydney Moore and Planning Commission Charles Schaefer, acting outside of their assigned roles, oaths, and Rules of Order while neglecting the state-required obligations of cities to protect public safety and maintain a balanced budget.
When the draft 2023-2024 Burien budget was being discussed, I submitted comments about the laissez-faire manner the budget process was handled by letting department heads submit whatever they wanted for their department budgets. This has never been a successful model for budgeting, especially when a city faces a possible shortfall in the two years following that budget period. Lean management models typically require departments to develop a % series of budget scenarios- (such as a 4%, 6%, 10%, and 15% gradations of cuts.) Lean budgets reduce conferences, travel, publication costs, phone costs, reducing purchases of non-emergency needed equipment, reducing grants and donations to other agencies in the city, reducing outsourcing costs, use proposals to bring in interns or short-term contractors, reducing % $ of staff salary increases, reducing meals and food costs, delayed purchases of non-essential lands and parks, reducing purchasing of rental spaces, and finally, staff time reduction. None of that was proposed for this draft budget other than no longer renting parking space from Grocery Outlet. Some very strange donations of grants of money to the Arts and the Historical Museum happened in the eleventh hour without the appropriate amendments to the budget process being made public!
Now with this emergency vagrant homelessness situation at hand, the only solutions that are appearing to be offered are the sale of a single city lot (the city has very few assets to sell) and increasing taxes to residents and business owners. The city and city council members are aware that Burien residents are some of the very poorest people in King County. The bulk of Burien’s tax base is residential property owners.
King County has announced that the average residential property taxes will increase by at least $500 per home.” Home values are up all over the county, but particularly in Eastside areas such as Redmond (43% on average), Woodinville (44%), and Kirkland (44.5%). The Sammamish Plateau topped the list with a 52% increase from the previous year. That’s double the still “eye-popping” 26% increase in Federal Way.”
As Burien’s home values are approximately in line with Federal Way’s, that is probably the increase Burien will see from the county. If the city of Burien further raises taxes to deal with this homeless situation, many residents will further suffer economically. Residents and businesses can thank Cydney, Charles, and several other council members for their lack of financial acumen and complacency toward sabotaging the work of the City Manager and the KCLS.
I encourage the City Manager to have his staff develop a lean management model and revise the city budget right now! It may very likely include reducing some staff time rather than heaping more taxes on an already poor residential population. The council must help rather than hinder the City Manager in resolving the budget crisis.
2. In reviewing the submitted budget vouchers for March 2023, I’ve noticed a significant amount of spending from Account No. 01757100-310000, Account Title Office, and Operating Supplies (this is actually being spent on food and beverages.) I certainly understand the need for the council to be fed when they have long meetings, but these food spendings exceed the amount needed for box lunches for seven council members, and they are not Office & Operating Supplies. This might be one of the areas the city manager and council should consider cutting costs on.