Bowser aims to balance D.C.’s recovery, increased costs in latest budget


DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on Wednesday proposed a $19.7 billion budget, the means to significantly increase the number of automated traffic cameras in the city and rejuvenate the embattled downtown corridor amid uncertainty over the city’s long-term financial prospects.

This year’s budget formulation presented unique challenges compared to those of the past three years, Bowser said, as the city was buoyed by hundreds of millions of dollars in federal pandemic aid. Lawmakers were already bracing for potential spending cuts this year, especially after the district’s chief financial officer late last month revised the city’s projected revenue downward by a total of $464 million between fiscal years 2024 and 2026, and a sharp decline of commercial real estate tax receipts cited as mainly due to telecommuting and inflation.

The majority of the federal funds and grants received from the city, nonprofits and residents — which officials said totaled about $16 billion — expire at the end of the next fiscal year. The city also had to account for significant cost increases over the next few fiscal years, city officials said, necessary to meet contract agreements with city employees, fund retirement accounts and offset cost increases for planned government projects.

All in all, Bowser said, the projected revenues and required expenditures left the district with a deficit of $1.7 billion over its five-year fiscal plan. She likened the economic factors to a “perfect storm.”

“As I reflect on my time in elected office, I haven’t seen these kinds of circumstances since I was a young councilor after the last recession,” Bowser said. “Our resources are shrinking while our fixed costs are increasing.”

To balance the budget, the mayor proposed a range of measures while delivering on her January promise not to raise taxes or fees. It sought to fund most programs and services at pre-pandemic levels and proposed various $373 million in cuts and cuts, including the elimination of 749 vacant city government jobs (excluding police officers and firefighters). Bowser also proposes withdrawing $257 million from the city’s tax reserves — a tool the mayor also used just before the pandemic began (the city is required by law to use excess revenue to replenish its reserves). Bowser also proposed abolishing the Criminal Code Reform Commission, which helped create the DC Council’s revisions to the city’s criminal code, which Congress eventually repealed.

Read  Here's Why Investors Have Mixed Feelings About the Fed's Latest Rate Hike

Bowser budget plan defies panel that recommended criminal code rewrites

Bowser also proposes using about $578 million in expected revenue from more than 300 new traffic cameras approved in budget cycles over the past two years and scheduled to be installed beginning this summer, a move she says the CFO has approved has been approved. Bowser suggests using some of those future funds for additional traffic calming efforts.

The mayor presented her proposal Wednesday to members of the DC Council, who have been pitching their own spending ideas to Bowser for the past few weeks; Many of their demands called for improvements to facilities like schools and recreation centers, and more funding for behavioral health services and public safety. Lawmakers are scheduled to hold hearings on the budget in the coming weeks before proposing changes, an effort that will culminate in May with a vote on the final budget for fiscal 2024, which begins Oct. 1.

Bowser’s proposal provides nearly $10 million in funding for major renovations at Farragut Square Park; $1 million to build a direct cash assistance program for new and expectant mothers, launched last year, available to 100 new families; $42 million for the city’s rapid resettlement program for families affected by homelessness; $900,000, which would result in $90 million in medical debt from about 90,000 residents; and $1.2 million to start a new school for prospective paramedics in hopes of addressing what officials described as a low number of district applicants in the field.

DC’s long-term finances are at risk as downtown remains sluggish, CFO warns

In education, Bowser provided funds to increase per-student spending for public and charter schools, begin planning a new teacher training program, and also proposed increasing eligibility for the city’s childcare grant, which officials said would bring 2,100 more would allow families access to the system. As for housing, Bowser provided additional money for the city’s Housing Production Trust Fund, which provides grants to developers to help them include subsidized units for low-income residents in new housing complexes, aiming for a $100 million investment in the next fiscal year. to reach dollars. She also proposed $115 million over the next two years to redevelop public housing units managed by the DC Housing Authority, which has come under scrutiny in recent years for failing to address housing units in need of repair. Another proposal aims to increase the city’s tax reduction funding to support office-to-residence conversions in fiscal 2028 from $6.8 million to $41 million, one of the city’s key initiatives to improve… gives a big boost to the revitalization of the inner city.

Read  Kotak Mahindra Bank latest FD rates are effective from today with up to 7.70% to senior citizens on these tenors

The proposed budget maintains police hiring incentives of $5.4 million in recruitment and conversion bonuses, with a goal of adding about 260 more officers to the roster of the city’s approximately 3,300 police officers. Bowser also proposed $277 million to build a new DC prison annex, with construction to begin in 2026, as well as funding a legislative measure that increases the number of people authorized to seal their arrest records.

And, as in her two previous budget proposals, Bowser again called on the council to overturn the removal of school resource officers from the city’s schools (four council members have already supported a bill to that effect). Despite protests from the mayor, the council voted to phase them out during last year’s budget process.

Fueled in part by projected revenues from the 342 automated traffic cameras the city plans to install this summer (140 are already operational), Bowser’s proposal proposes hundreds of millions of dollars to redesign “dangerous roads” and install permanent traffic calming measures use $5 million will go toward an overhauled program for traffic safety initiatives where accidents are the most common, and another $2 million to establish a task force to evaluate the effectiveness of the city’s automated traffic enforcement program — and whether enforcement is doing so is fair.

During her presentation, Bowser said the city’s unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, continuing a downward trend after the rate rose to 11 percent in May 2020. Additionally, she noted that the district had made gains in the past fiscal year by increasing its population by 3,000 new residents after two years of decline.

Other notable cost-cutting measures in their budget included reducing DC Circulator service from six planned routes to three — retaining routes serving Georgetown-Union Station, the National Mall, and Congress Heights-Union Station — a move from which Officials said he would save the city $7.5 million a year. Bowser also proposed a $3 million funding cut for the city’s contracted violence disruption work. Officials said they retained funding for other aspects of the violence break services, but they said a review of contractors’ spending spurred this proposed cut.

Read  Murder of 17-year-old boy latest violent crime to rattle Towson residents

“We had to make difficult decisions here. They’re impacting vacancies, and they’re impacting and redirecting some programs and services that we felt have been underperforming,” Bowser said.

Some lawmakers immediately expressed reservations about the mayor’s plan. councilor Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large), for example, raised questions about whether the mayor’s proposal for home repairs was sufficient and raised concerns about the proposed $35 million funding cut for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) of the district, which saw increased demand – a concern echoed by Councilor Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1), who said that amount was insufficient.

“We look at the needs in the city. When these increases in ERAP were made, we were in a pandemic, there was no safe and effective vaccine, and people couldn’t go to work,” Bowser later told reporters. “Those circumstances have changed.”

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said the mayor’s budget was “not a fair shot,” adding that “a closer look reveals budget decisions that are affecting the recovery for low- and middle-income residents.” throw back”. He similarly cited the ERAP cut while listing other programs he believed the mayor had cut. “The Council has 56 days to correct these bad decisions before it votes on the budget for the first time,” he added.

Another likely topic in the coming weeks will be a $128 million-a-year DC Council proposal for free public bus services, which lawmakers planned to introduce this summer. For the past few weeks, Mendelson and CFO Lee have been at odds over whether the money would be enough to fund the program after Lee hinted in February that the revenue wouldn’t be enough.

DC executives say the Free Bus plan will go ahead despite Bowser’s cost concerns

On Thursday, Bowser sent a letter to Lee that the costs may actually be higher than expected. Bowser has now asked Lee to revise his estimates of how much the program could cost; City officials expect lawmakers to refer to that revised number if they move to fund the measure in the coming weeks.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button