On Monday, April 7th, Mayor Gray hosted his quarterly meeting with ANC Chairs and agency heads. This is an initiative that the Mayor started about 3 years ago. The meeting usually begins with introductions, and then a presentation or two from various city agency representatives, followed by questions and open discussion. These sessions can be very useful because the Mayor includes all of the agency heads at the meetings. This way, there is always someone to answer any question that arises, and the Mayor can direct an agency head to follow up on concerns or issues raised during the discussion. I hope whoever is the next mayor will continue this new tradition.
Monday night’s meeting focused almost exclusively on the budget. The session began with a presentation on the Mayor’s proposed FY 2015 budget by Eric Goulet, Director of the Mayor’s Office on Budget and Finance. Full budget information is available here.
Some overall highlights of the budget overview included the following:
- Increases the District’s fund balance to $1.75 billion (the highest ever) to improve the city’s bond rating;
- No new taxes or fees;
- Represents a 4.5% total increase over the approved FY 2014 budget;
- Human services and education make up over 60% of the total budget; and
- 71% of the budget is generated from local taxes and fees (with the rest coming from federal grants, payments, and Medicaid).
With respect to the ANC and our part of the city in particular, some highlights of the budget presentation included the following:
- $38 million for renovation of Garrison Elementary School;
- Property tax relief for seniors (based on the recent legislation sponsored by Councilwoman Anita Bonds);
- Creation of a “One City Business Portal” for unified licensing and permitting;
- Fully funds a force of 4,000 police officers; and
- $114 million for sidewalk repairs, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements (including eliminating the current $18 million backlog of outstanding sidewalk repairs).
This is the third year that the Mayor has discussed the budget with ANC Chairs, followed by town hall meetings around the city. I thanked the Mayor for respecting the intelligence of ANC Commissioners and residents by hosting these sessions. The budget is probably the most important piece of legislation that the Council passes each year, but at the same also the hardest for individual residents and stakeholders to understand, because it is so large and dense. The budget puts hard dollars toward priority items and thus reflects our values as a city — how we want to improve the quality of life and help people. I appreciate that the Mayor is willing to explain clearly the priorities reflected in the budget proposal, package it in a way that is understandable, answer difficult questions about it, and solicit feedback on it.
With regard to specific budget items that we discussed at the quarterly meeting, I thanked the Mayor on behalf of our ANC for the Garrison School funding, as well as for funding the backlog of sidewalk repairs, given the heavy pedestrian traffic in our area. I suggest that ANC Commissioners host walk-throughs of their Single Member Districts to make sure any necessary sidewalk repairs are noted and logged in the District Department of Transportation’s list in order to get repaired between now and the end of FY 2015. I’ll be doing a sidewalk repair walk-through in 2B08 with DDOT representatives in May.
The Mayor, Mr. Goulet, and others will be holding town hall meetings in each ward to discuss the budget proposal. The Ward 2 Budget town hall meeting will take place at the Sumner School (17th and M) at 6:30pm on Thursday, April 24th. Community members are encouraged to attend.