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Burien braces for 'dire' budget cuts and the impact on vital services

Amy Moreno

King5 NBC News

Jul 11, 2020

Burien's drop in revenue coincides with an increase in COVID-19 cases. Now city leaders are facing grim budget cuts.

BURIEN, Wash. — A drop in tax revenue and a rise in the number of people who need help are hitting the small King County community of Burien hard right now.

This week, City Manager Brian Wilson warned council leaders they will need to make budget cuts over the next few months.

The city manager says they're about 12% over budget and need to cut more than $3 million. Finding the money will not be easy when funds are already stretched thin.

“This is something I would classify as dire for the city,” Wilson told councilmembers during the meeting.

Wilson and city staff will now work on recommendations for city leaders to find ways to save money, but they warn there's a good chance city services could be impacted.

Mayor Jimmy Matta sees only hard choices ahead.

"We can't cut food programs. We can't cut programs for people living without homes,” he explained.

To make matters worse, the city is experiencing a higher rate of COVID-19 than average for King County and they have a significant number of low-income residents. Matta says 42% are people of color.

“We've had a lot hits here in Burien. The annex tax we're going to lose, the car tab tax, potentially we're going to lose. On top of it, COVID has been devastating our community," said Matta.

The mayor said Burien already dipped into the general fund to help with food, masks, and other essentials for residents struggling financially.

“I don't know where we're going to find that money, but we're going to have to find it,” Matta said.

The mayor is reaching out to the county and the state for help. They're also hoping to draw more development into the city and generate more tax revenue.

Burien leaders hope to finalize budget cut proposals over the next few months.