After the annexation of the Finn Hill, North Juanita and Kingsgate neighborhoods on June 1, Kirkland now has 80,000 people now, up from 50,000. We made the top dozen in the state!
We’re about tied with Bellingham and behind Kent, Renton, Yakima and Federal Way, which have around 90,000 people.
The most notable change resulting from annexation is more police presence. This is a good thing (although there’s a counter argument) and within the proper scope of city government.
A negative change for newcomers is the city business license requirement of $200 or more per year (based on the number of employees). This tax affects small and home businesses.
Formerly unincorporated small or home businesses didn’t need such a license, except for a select few like pool rooms, dance halls and amusement parks. Or if they did have one, this is now a second tax on top of the county one.
Some social and business benefits do accrue, though, from annexation. A city of 80,000 has higher status (more bragging rights), a larger economic engine and some businesses may see a direct positive impact, especially businesses with “Kirkland” in their name.
What does the city business license fee go for? Well, it’s 4 percent of the city’s general fund, which pays for police, roads, parks, special events and economic development. I’d say leave the economic development to the private sector like the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce and Kirkland Downtown Association, and lower the license fee/tax correspondingly.
But then the rest of what the business tax goes for: police, roads, parks and special events. Infrastructure is generally seen as proper functions of municipal government. (This is so, although there are valid arguments for privatizing special events, parks, and even roads and sidewalks — which if done, could make the business license fee unnecessary. But that’s a subject for another day: “no taxation without privatization.”)
If you believe that special events, parks and roads are valid functions of city government, then the business license fee can be seen as just and necessary for newcomers (and old time Kirkland residents as well).
But if you feel the things the fee funds could be privatized, then the new tax may appear unnecessary, unfair or burdensome. Or, if you feel that these things are proper functions of city government, but that it could just be run more efficiently, then you might also dislike the tax.
So that’s the libertarian spin on life in Kirkland after annexation.
Jeff E. Jared is an attorney and political writer in Kirkland who writes from a libertarian and law-and-economics perspective.