[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The SeaTac Blog nor its staff:]
SeaTac 2016 – The council’s year in review!
This has been a very productive year in the city of SeaTac. Since we are more than halfway through December, this seems like an appropriate time to look back and see how things have changed. As you remember, the election of 2015 brought four new members to the SeaTac city Council; Rick Forschler, Peter Kwon, Michael Seifkes, and Erin Sitterly. These candidates, all local residents and homeowners, ran their campaign on a platform of fiscal responsibility. They promised to balance the budget and bring positive change to the city. As we are coming to the end of their first year in office, it makes sense that we should look at what they have accomplished so far.
One of the best accomplishments was to find the funding for 2016 to balance the budget that overcame the $2.5 million dollar deficit created by the former council’s spurious repeal of the utility tax in their last weeks in office. Evidently this was a parting goodbye gift to the citizens of the city in the hopes it would undermine the chances of the new council delivering on their promises. However, it failed to do that! Funds were found to more than cover the deficit and no services were cut in the process.
Another important accomplishment was the creation of a balanced and sustainable budget, which maintained the current levels of funding and services. The funding was also found to add one more needed police officer to our police department. Finally, when King County lowered property taxes, the council made a decision based on having a balanced and sustainable budget not to raise property taxes but rather to pass along the tax cut given by the County to the taxpayers. While property taxes are ever-increasing in surrounding cities, SeaTac property owners will benefit from reduced property taxes in 2017!
The council actively found ways to increase revenue and lower expense to the city. The city raised the Transportation Impact Fees (TIF) for the first time in many years. These fees are charged to developers when their projects affect city traffic. The increase is based upon an analysis of the fees being charged at other comparable cities. The city also reviewed their current insurance policies and worked with our brokers to find significant insurance savings to effectively reduce insurance costs to the city.
As a result of the increase in city revenue, the human services funding also increased under the direction of the new council.
In an effort to be more “business friendly”, small business licensing fees were reduced from $250 down to $100.
The council increased the amount of reserve or “rainy day” funds so the city is now in a better position to weather out future downturns in the economy.
Recognizing the unrecovered cost to the taxpayers, they successfully lobbied for passage of State House Bill #2519 which allows cities first priority to recover the funds spent on cleaning up hazardous properties.
This year the city worked with Kent RFA, our fire department, to improve the city’s fire insurance rating, which should result in better insurance rates.
The council adopted a resolution brought by Councilman Kwon supporting ethnic diversity.
A code of ethics for the members of the city Council was adopted and an employee code of ethics is close to passing.
Construction of the new Riverton community Park via a CDBG grant was approved.
A master plan for the Highline botanical garden was approved and ground was broken on the new community garden next to the Highline botanical garden.
The long awaited Angle Lake light rail station was opened and the council worked with local businesses to have an opening party for the station at no cost to the taxpayers.
The city approved a test run of the family-friendly mini hydro races at Angle Lake and it was a huge success.
By request of the citizens and to promote local participation, the standing Council committees were restored.
The sidewalk committee was re-established.
The SeaTac Airport Advisory Committee was created in an effort to develop a more positive relationship with the airport to benefit the people and businesses of SeaTac.
The city took the Port of Seattle to court regarding the plan to cut 1400 trees around the airport and appealed the decision originally rendered by the courts. This resulted in the reduction of the number of to be cut trees to be cut by 50% and pushed the Port of Seattle to establish a $1 million fund to be used for local environmental projects.
Finally, one of the biggest achievements which will have far-reaching effect on the growth of this city is the fact that this Council discovered that under the ILA with the Port of Seattle, the city was entitled to be paid an additional $11 million this year in parking taxes. It was found that full amount has not been received by the city since 2010. Over this time, the loss to the city and the taxpayer is at least $24 million! The agreement with the Port allows the city raise the parking tax rate when the city fails to receive the full $11 million, which was done recently. This income is restricted to the use of street repairs, which can be put to very good use!
The city has moved forward this year on many fronts and while there is still work to do to “make SeaTac Brighter”, this is definitely a step in the right direction. The professionalism and demeanor of our city council has changed as promised during the election. The city is more transparent. Meetings now embrace the participation of the taxpayers and we are without a doubt, better off than we were a year ago! As a taxpayer, property owner, voter and resident, I look forward to next year with great anticipation. It seems that for the City of SeaTac, this has been a very good year!
– Joel Wachtel
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