Sims dangles $10 million to encourage annexation


Staff writer

King County Executive Ron Sims’ proposal to create a $10 million incentive package to encourage cities to pursue annexation of their unincorporated areas was met with wariness from residents in Federal Way’s potential annexation area east of Interstate 5.

But city officials said they don’t intend to actively encourage residents to annex if they don’t want to.

In his proposed 2004 budget, released earlier this month, Sims said the incentive money would serve as one-time funding to help partially off-set the costs of bringing the unincorporated areas up to city standards.

Sims spokeswoman Elaine Kraft likened the proposal to the county’s efforts in the past year to get cities to take control of county-owned parks and pools, as Federal Way did with Kenneth Jones Pool.

“Annexations are part of the comprehensive plan, anyway,” she said. “We’re asking that it be accelerated because we can’t afford to continue to provide services to these pockets.”

Metropolitan King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer, who lives in Federal Way and represents the area, said he’s getting “strong voices of disapproval from the residents of east King County.”

“People in that area are very, very apprehensive of this attempt,” he said. “People chose to live in an unincorporated area of King County for a reason: They don’t want to live in the city limits.”

During incorporation pushes over the past several years, nascent cities drew their boundaries around revenue-generating land –– the densely populated and commercial areas –– and edged out low-revenue areas that would cost cities more in services than they would bring in taxes.

Those areas were left in the care of the county, but with a “horrendous” general fund outlook, the county won’t be able to continue providing basic services, like road maintenance and police, said County Councilman Larry Phillips, chairman of the council’s budget committee.

“The county can’t afford even the level of service (they’re) getting now,” he said. “For a long time we limped, but then there were tax cuts and voter initiatives and it decimated the budget.”

Considering the county manages the court system and jails, wastewater and solid-waste management, several thousand remaining acres of parks and open space and other administrative functions, it’s a financial drain to continue basic services to the unincorporated pockets that are situated next door to cities with faster, better services, Phillips said.

But it costs a lot for cities to provide those services, too, and there’s an undisputed gap between the standard of services provided by King County and the cities.

Federal Way has been studying its potential annexation area to determine what services would be necessary there should residents decide to petition the city for annexation. So far, the city has found a roughly $3 million deficit between the cost of services and the amount of taxes residents there would pay into city coffers.

City Councilman Eric Faison, chairman of the council’s Land-Use and Transportation Committee, said the city has no plans to actively encourage residents there to warm up to annexation.

He said Federal Way probably won’t pursue the county’s offer, as any part of the $10 million would be significantly less than the ongoing cost to Federal Way to annex the area.

“We recognize the county’s dilemma, but we are also faced with the same dilemma. Almost all (the county’s unincorporated areas) are money-losers. They’re primarily residential,” he said. “We’re committed to the area, but it’s extremely expensive. We have to sit down and have a fundamental discussion about it.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565,

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