News

Federal Way tells state: Send money

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

Federal Way city officials sent local legislators to Olympia this year with a clear idea of the issues most important to the city, including protection from unfunded mandates and taxing restrictions and preservation of ongoing funding for projects city officials feel are important to quality of life in Federal Way.

Generally speaking, city officials oppose any new measures that will cost the city money or result in unfunded state mandates, especially while the city is struggling with budget shortfalls and several large capital projects on the horizon.

Annexation will be a top issue this year as legislators tweak an annexation bill they passed last year in response to a Supreme Court finding the former system was unconstitutional.

The bill required 50 percent of registered voters and 50 percent of land owners to sign a petition to annex, but when cities set out to do it, they realized many registered voters on their rosters had died or moved away.

Lawmakers are expected to change the language of the bill to require 50 percent of the land owners and 50 percent of the votes cast in the last election.

Federal Way has a list of capital projects for which officials hope to secure funding, including:

• $1.425 million for a regional detention pond for the Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club;

• $75,000 for a preliminary study to identify and develop a central park in the downtown core;

• $75,000 for renovation of a running track from cinder to rubberized asphalt at Sacajawea Park;

• $272,000 to add artwork to the community center, senior center and pool facility;

• $480,000 for ongoing capital upgrades and equipment replacements at Dumas Bay Center; and

• $100,000 for development of a master plan for Poverty Bay Park, a heavily wooded area with beach access.

Assistant city manager Derek Matheson said Sen. Tracey Eide, D, Federal Way, expressed an interest in helping the city find funding for the City Hall project as well.

State compliance with a national sales tax streamlining project will be a big issue for the city this year, especially considering Federal Way could stand to recapture an estimated $750,000 in sales tax revenue lost to e-commerce, Matheson said.

Still, state participation in the project is a contentious issue for some cities — particularly cities like Kent, where the manufacturers and warehouses are.

“It’s a tough issue for cities in general because there are some cities who win and some cities who lose,” Matheson said.

Transportation still tops the city’s list of legislative priorities, and city officials want to ensure local projects continue to get funding — especially since the passage of Initiative 776, which resulted in a two-year, $1.5 million loss in Federal Way.

Matheson said city officials want the state either to give local governments the authority to go to the voters themselves for transportation funding or to directly allocate state funding to cities for transportation.

While those are the biggest issues, city officials also want lawmakers to clarify that the city has the authority to zone gambling into certain parts of the city.

City officials support a county utility tax as long as its restricted to unincorporated areas, and they’re hoping lawmakers pass a tax-increment financing plan.

Finally, city officials are keeping an eye out for Tim Eyman’s latest: a 25 percent property tax initiative that would reduce the property tax levy for each local taxing district by 25 percent beginning in 2005.

A local taxing district is considered any taxing district other than the state, but the initiative wouldn’t reduce voter-approved special levies, like school levies.

Eyman and his supporters have until July to gather the necessary 200,000 signatures to put the initiative on the ballot.

Matheson said the initiative could cost the city $2 million a year on an $8 million annual general fund budget, and would cut into almost every city department, including cops, courts, community development, parks, part of public works, legal, management services and administration.

“The reductions we’d have to make would be the largest we’ve ever had to do as a city, bigger than 695, bigger than 747,” he said.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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