By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
Mayor Muriel Bowser held her third and final budget engagement forum in Ward 4 this week at Theodore Roosevelt High School, 4301 13th Street N.W., buoyed by city officials in several agencies and members of the community.
“We’re at a really critical time in our city,” Bowser said. “In a lot of ways this is our most prosperous time and our growth has created a lot of challenges. High cost is our biggest challenge and disparity.”
“I believe we have an incredible opportunity to build on the things that needed to get done on our first term.”
“As you grapple with these questions, you may be confronted with some of the trade offs that our budget team has encountered,” Bowser said. “At the end of the day we will have a balanced budget that will represent our values and our best days ahead.”
It was a fun and impassioned night filled with lively conversation, pop quizzes and questions for the mayor and city officials.
Jenny Reed, Director of Budget and Performance Management, took center stage to unpack the highlights from the 2019 Fiscal year budget which included:
- A $93 million increase in funding for DCPS and public charter schools
- $1.3 billion in funds over six year for the modernization of 26 elementary schools, 2 high schools and 2 middle schools in the District
- $4.5M for the Safe at Home program for seniors
- $100 million for the Housing Production Trust Fund and $10 million for the Housing Preservation Fund
Reed unpacked the budget process, explaining that it was year round exercise starting in November. Community engagement is held at the beginning of the year. On March 20 the mayor’s proposed budget is turned into the D.C. Council and the Mayor’s office testifies on the budget two days later.
The Council holds hearings on every single agencies, and “you’re invited to come testify,” Reed said on those budgets and where residents think the money should be spent.
The budget sits at about $14.6 billion because D.C. functions as a city, state and county all in one, according to Reed. “As a result we have a pretty big budget,” Reed said, about $10.5 billion of which are local funds, with $2.5 billion in federal grants payments and Medicaid and another $6 billion in dedicated taxes, that go to support things like the Housing trust Fund. There is also a Capital Budget, set at $1.7 billion.
City Administrator, Rashad Young broke down the District’s priorities and goals which include in part:
- Accelerating improvements in education
- Expanding health and human services
- Providing safe and efficient transportation
- Strengthening public Safety
- Investments in infrastructure
- Ensure access to job and economic opportunities
- Increase investments in seniors
- Substantial investments in infrastructure and community spaces
During the event, residents played a fun pop quiz about where budget funds went. Afterward the mayor crisscrossed the room to speak to people at the tables that were set up roundtable style.
Deputy Director of Public Safety Kevin Donahue also spoke about the unveiling of the READY Center, an initiative to assist returning citizens with resources and agencies in the District to reduce recidivism. He talked about the importance of bolstering the public safety for the future of the city saying, “these are investments that in order to realize the benefits of the cultures on top, we have to make sure public safety is addressed.”
For more information about the budget process and questions please go to mayor.dc.gov