Seattle Council Ponders Burglar Alarm Surcharge


The Seattle Times reports that City Council members
there are mulling a new $75 annual registration fee for
owners of burglar alarms to avoid some budget cuts proposed
by Mayor Greg Nickels.

The idea, floated at a council budget retreat in early October, could raise $3 million a year if imposed on all of the estimated 40,000 burglar alarms in the city.

The details of the alarm fee have yet to be worked out, but at least three council members said there appeared to be solid support for the idea—one of the first substantive alternatives to Nickels’ proposed budget cuts to emerge so far. The council has until the end of next month to adopt a balanced city budget.

One city councilman said the alarm-fee money could save the jobs of the Police Department’s community-service officers, who would be eliminated under the mayor’s plan. They respond to thousands of low-priority calls such as landlord-tenant disputes, missing or found property, and noise complaints.

Reductions are necessary because the slumping economy has slowed city tax revenues. But officials said the council would like to prevent about $5 million to $10 million in cuts proposed by Nickels—including the major reductions in money for public health.

Officials said the idea for the alarm fee was based partly on a $75 alarm fee proposed in Snohomish County. The fee would allow the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office to add 10 new deputies.

When asked what Seattle burglar-alarm owners would get in exchange for a new $75 fee, officials said they’d get the same service they do now.

A recent study suggested the Police Department spends too much time responding to burglar alarms—95 percent of which turn out to be false.

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