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Budget 101

Every two years, City of Burien staff prepare a two-year budget that the Burien City Council reviews and adopts. The budget outlines expected revenues and expenses for the next two years. The budget document establishes the City’s priorities and serves as a policy document, financial plan, operations guide, and communications device. Community members have a say in shaping the City’s budget.

The City follows state laws regarding municipal budgets and is guided by its own financial policies, approved by the City Council. The budget serves as the plan that guides how the City spends public money. There are numerous accountability requirements and checks and balances that are implemented to ensure transparency.

Budget Process

Budget development follows a similar process each year. While the community can weigh in at any time, City Council discussions and public hearings dedicated to the budget usually occur in the fall.

Department Review

  • Baseline budget: This step involves understanding current expenditures and revenues.
  • Landscape analysis: Staff gather information on organizational changes and changes to tax codes, economic conditions, and policies.
  • Goal setting: Staff seek guidance from both the City Manager and City Council regarding their goals. Do they want to keep the budget the same, do some minor fine-tuning, or are more significant updates desired?
  • Budget development: The finance director and financial analyst work with City leadership to collaborate on a draft budget.

City Manager Review

The City Manager works with finance staff and departments to finalize and approve a draft budget before it is presented to the City Council.

Legislative Review

  • City Council review: City Council reviews the budget during public meetings. State law requires public hearings and the budget be presented to City Council in early October. There are five council meetings devoted to discussing the budget before it gets approved, taking place from October through early December.
  • Budget approval: State law requires the City Council to approve the budget by the end of the year.

Tax Revenue 101

The City pays for services and programs through various revenues including property tax, sales taxes, utility taxes, and fees and service charges. Grants from federal, state, and county governments also make up a portion of the City’s total revenues.

Property tax is one of the City’s major revenue sources, accounting for approximately 26% of all projected revenues for 2023. Property taxes are distributed to the state, county, city, and several other taxing authorities including public schools, Sound Transit, and the local fire district. The City receives a relatively small portion of a property owner’s total bill. 

State law limits the amount of property tax that can be assessed to $10 per $1,000 assessed value. Cities are not allowed to collect more than $5.90 per $1,000 assessed value on properties. King County receives a portion of property tax for roads, police, criminal justice, public health, elections, and parks, among other services.

Funds explained

The City budget is divided into several funds, or buckets, that help the City track revenues and expenses. The General Fund is the largest fund and is where most revenues and expenses are tracked. Other funds serve specific purposes related to infrastructure, public art, and other specific and restricted uses.

  • General Fund: Supports the general operations of the City government. These include administration, the legislative function, legal services, public safety, human services, planning and community development, enforcement of local codes, parks, recreation, and cultural activities. Taxes are the principal source of revenue for the General Fund: property tax, sales tax, utility tax, gambling tax, and business and occupation tax. Other important sources are shared revenue from other governments, licenses and permits, charges for service, and fines and forfeitures. The General Fund accounts for all City resources except those for which a specific fund has been created.
  • Other Operating Funds: Used solely for the general operations of the City and includes the Street Fund, Surface Water Management Fund, State Drug Enforcement Forfeiture Fund, Federal Drug Enforcement Forfeiture Fund, and Transportation Benefit District Fund.
  • Reserve Funds: There are five Reserve funds and they include the Equipment Replacement Reserve, Public Works Reserve, Capital Projects Reserve, Art in Public Places Fund, and Local Improvement District (LID) Guaranty Fund. These funds are used to accumulate monies for the specific purposes identified in each fund’s definition.
  • Debt Service Fund: This fund accounts for resources necessary to pay the principal and interest on general long-term debt. The City currently has outstanding General Obligation Bonds, Local Improvement District Bonds, and Public Works Trust Fund Loans.
  • Capital Project Funds: These funds are used to account for financial resources to be used for major construction, infrastructure improvements, and land acquisitions including those financed by special assessment. Capital projects are adopted on a multi-year year basis. Currently, the City has three active capital project funds: Parks and General Government, Transportation, and Surface Water Management.

Keeping track of the budget

The Finance Department records daily expenditures and revenue intake. They also produce quarterly and annual reports tracking budget progress. These annual and quarterly reports are shared with the City Council and published on the City website.

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