Bud­get belt-tight­en­ing con­cerns law­mak­ers

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Con­tentious bat­tles over po­lice staffing and tax in­creases that marked last year’s D.C. Coun­cil bud­get de­bate likely won’t be re­peated this year, but com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties for fu­ture rev­enue again will of­fer an in­vi­ta­tion for mis­chief.

The $ 9.4 bil­lion f is­cal 2013 bud­get D.C. Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray pro­posed Fri­day pro­vides fund­ing for 3,900 sworn of­fi­cers for the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment and does not im­pose new taxes or fees, even as the Dis­trict grap­ples with di­min­ish­ing sup­port from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

But con­tin­ued belt-tight­en­ing around the so­cial safety net is al­ready a point of con­cern for law­mak­ers, in­clud­ing Jim Gra­ham, Ward 1 Demo­crat, who said the plan puts a bur­den on those “least able to con­trib­ute.”

The mayor’s bud­get con­tains a 25-point pri­or­ity list that puts a pre­mium on ser­vices for the home­less and tem­po­rary as­sis­tance for

fam­i­lies, among other so­cial ser­vices, if re­vised rev­enue es­ti­mates of­fer a wind­fall for city cof­fers. A sim­i­lar list prompted hours of de­bate and fric­tion among coun­cil mem­bers dur­ing bud­get talks last sum­mer, although few of the pri­or­i­ties ended up get­ting funded.

“I think the wish list is just a wish list and a lot of it will get changed,” said coun­cil mem­ber Jack Evans, Ward 2 Demo­crat.

Mr. Evans said he was pleased with the over­all bud­get — an im­por­tant early nod of ap­proval from the chair­man of the pow­er­ful Com­mit­tee on Fi­nance and Rev­enue who has voted against the past two spend­ing plans.

Mr. Gray’s bud­get would close a $172 mil­lion bud­get gap by mak­ing $102 mil­lion in cuts and rais­ing $70 mil­lion in new rev­enue, in­clud­ing a mas­sive uptick in au­to­mated traf­fic en­force­ment and ex­panded hours for al­co­hol sales.

The plan to in­crease “traf­fic-calm­ing” mea­sures, such as speed and red-light cam­eras is pro­jected to bring in $24.8 mil­lion in rev­enue af­ter the city spends nearly $5 mil­lion on cam­era equip­ment.

The rev­enue pro­jec­tion re­quires a mas­sive ex­pan­sion of a pro­gram that is al­ready con­tro­ver­sial, with po­lice and pro­po­nents say­ing cam­eras pro­mote safety, while op­po­nents say they are a cash cow.

Traf­fic cam­eras gen­er­ated a record $80.4 mil­lion for the Dis­trict in f is­cal 2010 and were on pace to ex­ceed that to­tal in fis­cal 2011, AAA MidAt­lantic said in Au­gust af­ter fil­ing a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest with the city.

In ad­di­tion to the cam­era rev­enue, the mayor’s plan would in­sti­tute an ag­gres­sive sys­tem of penal­ties and mon­i­tor­ing to col­lect $28.2 mil­lion in un­paid taxes and traff ic fines, as the city con­tin­ues to work to shore up its fi­nan­cial rep­u­ta­tion.

Public ed­u­ca­tion com­prises more than 20 per­cent of Mr. Gray’s op­er­at­ing bud­get at just un­der $2 bil­lion, a fig­ure that in­cludes al­most $64 mil­lion to keep up with en­roll­ment in­creases in the D.C. Public Schools and D.C. Public Char­ter Schools. It also lays out a six-year, $649 mil­lion plan to con­tinue the mod­ern­iza­tion of city high schools.

The plan also calls for spend­ing on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment at hot spots such as the St. El­iz­a­beths hospi­tal cam­pus in Ward 8 and the for­mer Wal­ter Reed Army Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Ward 4.

Mr. Gray seeks a 3.8 per­cent in­crease in over­all op­er­at­ing funds and a 4.2 per­cent in­crease in lo­cal funds from this year’s ap­proved bud­get.

Among its other pro­pos­als, the mayor’s plan would al­low city bars to stay open un­til 3 a.m. on week­days and 4 a.m. on week­ends and let stores that sell al­co­hol open at 7 a.m. in­stead of 9 a.m. in or­der to gen­er­ate $5.3 mil­lion in sales tax rev­enue. It also would al­low bars to stay open un­til 4 a. m. ev­ery night and al­low restau­rants to serve cus­tomers around the clock dur­ing pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ra­tion weeks in 2013 and 2017.

Although hu­man sup­port ser­vices ac­count for 40 per­cent of the pro­posed bud­get, the city’s need­i­est res­i­dents could feel the pain of fis­cal re­straint.

The plan cuts hospi­tal ser­vices and spe­cialty care from the D.C. Al­liance, which pro­vides care to about 20,000 low-in­come peo­ple who are not on Med­i­caid.

“It’s not some­thing I feel good about, but at the end of the day we have to make the most re­spon­si­ble de­ci­sions that we can make around the out­comes of the bud­get,” Mr. Gray said Fri­day of the cuts.

Coun­cil mem­ber David A. Cata­nia, at-large in­de­pen­dent and chair­man of the Com­mit­tee on Health, told the mayor his cuts to the pro­gram are “very se­ri­ous.”

Sig­nal­ing fu­ture de­bate, Mr. Cata­nia pro­posed a freeze on cost-of-liv­ing in­creases in pen­sion plans for po­lice, fire­fight­ers and teach­ers to cover the al­liance-re­lated costs and then some, not­ing pen­sion ex­penses are send­ing the Dis­trict “right back to bank­ruptcy.”

The fis­cal 2013 bud­get will take ef­fect Oct. 1 af­ter ap­proval from the D.C. Coun­cil and Congress.

Florence I. Ol­daker Pakis, 92, of Burgess, VA for­merly of Sil­ver Spring, MD, died on Mon­day, March 19, 2012. She was the beloved sis­ter of Win­nifred Car­ri­gan of Burgess, VA.; beloved aunt of four nieces and six neph­ews. She was widow of Ni­cholas Pakis and pre­ceded in death by nephew, Christopher Car­ri­gan. She was born in Iowa, daugh­ter of the late Charles and Mary Mcgimpsey Ol­daker. Mrs. Pakis moved to Washington D.C. dur­ing World War II and worked as a gov­ern­ment girl and was a res­i­dent in the Washington D. C. and Mary­land ar­eas un­til 2002. She re­tired as an ad­min­is­tra­tor with the Mar­itime Ad­min­is­tra­tion. She was a mem­ber of Wal­lace Me­mo­rial Pres­by­te­rian Church for 40 years in Washington, D.C. and a mem­ber of the PEO in the Mary­land and Virginia ar­eas. Fu­neral ser­vices 11:00 a.m. Tues­day, April 3 at St. An­drews Pres­by­te­rian Church, Kil­marnock, VA. Visi­ta­tion will be 5 – 7 p.m. Mon­day, April 2 at CUR­RIE FU­NERAL HOME, Kil­marnock, VA. Fu­neral ser­vices 11: 00 a. m. Wed­nes­day, April 4 at HINES-RI­NALDI Fu­neral Home, Sil­ver Spring, MD. In­ter­ment in Fort Lin­coln Ceme­tery, Brent­wood, MD. Me­mo­ri­als may be made to St. An­drews Pres­by­te­rian Church, P. O. Box 1366, Kil­marnock, VA 22482.

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