D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s new budget is is set for public hearings. (AFRO File Photo)
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) recently presented her $13.5 billion budget for the District to the D.C. Council that includes $2.5 million for more police officers, $4.8 million for summer youth jobs and looks to take over the D.C. jail.
On March 24, Bowser briefed members of the D.C. Council on her fiscal year budget plan entitled: “A Fair Shot”. This is Bowser’s second budget since taking office.
“In a city as prosperous as ours, every resident deserves as fair shot-no matter who you are or what ward you live in,” the mayor said. “The Fair Shot Budget is geared toward making life better for Washingtonians today, as we prepare for a strong, healthy and prosperous future.”
Bowser’s proposed budget includes $100 million to build and support more affordable housing units and $220 million for District of Columbia public schools as well as $75 million to enhance the schools’ programming. Other highlights include $12 million to put more ambulances on the streets and $2.5 million to the Office of United Communications for additional training of personnel; $10 million to delay the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families “cliff”, which is an effort to keep families from falling into dire poverty as their TANF benefits are set to expire; $5.9 million to programs to support returning citizens and $4.8 million for full funding of the Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program.
Bowser said she wants to provide $2.5 million for a program that will put 60 more officers on the streets in less than half of the training time, which is generally six months.
Delroy Burton, the outgoing chairman of the D.C. Police Union, said any action to increase the number of police officers on the force is welcome. “I think it is critical that the police force is fully staffed at the level of 4,000 officers,” Burton told the AFRO on March 24. “It used to be 5,200 in the 1980s until Marion Barry stopped hiring officers at one time. We are in a staffing shortage because within the last 24 months, we have lost 817 officers to retirement and some officers are leaving because the workload they have to endure.”
The budget also includes funds to takeover the Correctional Treatment Facility in the D.C. to house local federal inmates who are at the end of their sentences.
The mayor’s plan to end homelessness in the District will include $20 million to close D.C. General and replace that facility with short-term housing in all of the city’s eight wards. Lesser known budget items include supporting families during their bout with homelessness with $1 million, $1.8 million to help support families with rapid rehousing and $700,000 for homeless youth initiatives.
Bowser has allocated $179 million to help renovate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and invested $98.7 million to continue to improve the United Medical Center.
The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute is an advocate for the city’s low-income residents and publishes studies and papers on public policy in that area. Its executive director, through its blog, said that while the budget “maintains and adds important investments” to help D.C. residents, the proposed budget leaves large gaps in meeting the needs of the poorest residents.”
The blog, in its March 24 analysis of the budget, said that TANF assistance is inadequate because the time limit for people who have used up their benefits is only extended for a year; rental assistance gets no additional resources and there are no new housing vouchers; and there are no additional investments in early child care and education.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) announced a Committee of the Whole public hearing on the mayor’s budget on April 4, the day city officials return from Easter recess. The hearing will include the mayor’s executive team, including Bowser, and the chief financial officer. The council will vote on the budget in June.