Tukwila Talk

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Seeing the Light of Slow Improvement - T Reporter column

This is a mirror post of my commentary column in Tukwila Reporter
Economically, things are looking up for Tukwila. In the first nine months of 2011, sales tax revenues increased more than 7 percent. When one time construction- related sales-tax events are removed from the totals, we are at just under 5 percent. This is an excellent number because it is higher than expected considering that the Klickitat project greatly restricted access to the mall/urban center area during the second and third quarters.

The Department of Community Development outlook for 2012 does not anticipate many new construction projects. The new facility for Aviation High School is being built adjacent to Boeing Field on the Museum of Flight campus. Checkout the new Starbucks on East Marginal Way South near the Museum of Flight and Randy’s Restaurant. Built with four shipping containers and measuring 448 square feet, this drive through Starbucks is a novel approach to building green.

Tenant improvements (TI) are looking robust. This is when the owner of a building upgrades or improves a building for an existing or new tenant. Examples include the Toys R Us move farther south and across the street on Southcenter Parkway and the Value Village store moving into the old Toys R Us building.

While things are improving slowly, we are still way behind where we were just three or four years ago in terms of sales-tax collection. The voters of Tukwila made an intelligent financial decision (60 percent in favor) in this last election to retain card rooms. This means that we are able to retain more than $2 million in gambling tax revenues. It is expected that those revenues will increase as time goes by.

With the retirement of Councilwoman Joan Hernandez, we gained a new council member, Kate Kruller. Kruller brings a rigorous intellect, political experience and project management experience to the dais. These qualities are sorely needed as our city grows and participates in the inter-city and regional web of governing jurisdictions.

While things are getting better, we have major financial challenges. The structural imbalance between revenues and expenditures still exists. Cost of goods and services including health care, salaries and benefits are going up at a rate higher than the rate of increase of revenues to our city. This is largely due to tax limitations required by state law and voter approved initiatives. Over time, residents can expect to see less and less in terms of services. Until a more sustainable economic paradigm evolves, we are stuck with the same situation as everyone else. We have to promote and support economic activity to increase revenues. As the Planning Commission works to help develop the Tukwila urban center plan before it forwards its recommendation to the City Council, this economic reality needs to be kept in mind. Hopefully the City Council will make smart decisions that will leverage our tax dollars in the most efficacious fashion.

The replacement levy for the Tukwila school district is coming up for a vote in February. While we would all like to see the state Legislature meet its obligation to fund education, we voters have made it impossible for them because we have not supported measures that would allow the state to collect sufficient revenues. This drives the need to help fund education to the local level. The upcoming levy deserves our support. It funds approximately 27 percent of our Tukwila school district budget which has been hit hard by cuts at the state level. For more on this, visit supporttukwilaschools.com.

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