Who will annex White Center? Seattle’s pulling back, for now
The prospects of Seattle annexing White Center (and other parts of the still-unincorporated area) brightened at one point last year – as first reported here – when the Seattle City Council voted to put the city on “a path” toward a potential annexation vote this fall. However, that path seems to be dead-ending, at least for now. A new report has led the mayor’s office to throw cold water on the idea, because of budget woes. The report was prepared for the City Council, which wanted more information on the potential costs, among other things, and you can read it in its entirety here. Lots of detailed reading, but bottom line: The annexation area would cost the city $16 million more to run each year than it would bring in. And the deferred street maintenance needed by the area would cost tens of millions of dollars to catch up with – leaving the city with “one-time” expenses of annexation running $91 million.
We asked the Seattle mayor’s office for comment. From spokesperson Aaron Pickus:
The mayor thinks that the financial reality of the City’s budget, now and in the near future, make annexation difficult for the City to pursue at this time. The City simply does not have sufficient resources (and resource growth) to meet existing demands and take on the new demands that the annexation of Area Y would require. When our City’s finances are more robust, the Mayor would be interested in re-evaluating the annexation.
We’re also checking with City Council leadership, among other potentially interested parties. The county has said that *somebody* has to annex the urban unincorporated areas such as White Center, because it’s not supposed to be in the business of providing urban services. So, what about Burien? We asked its city manager, Mike Martin (Burien has a slightly different structure of government, so while there’s also a mayor, the city manager is the person who runs the city day to day), who replied:
Frankly, the ball is in Seattle’s court. You’ll probably remember that Burien signed an MOU with Seattle (they didn’t sign) basically agreeing to give them the first shot at annexing that area, as long as they did it by the end of this year. We also agreed not to interfere if they decided to go for it. We’ll stand by our word. If Seattle decides they’re not interested, my council will have a decision to make. But for now, we’re waiting on Seattle.
Martin also says he’s shared the Seattle report with his council.
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