Monday, February 20, 2012

Budget update, February 20

  • Budget hearing/event sked changes:   The DC Council has announced three changes to the FY 2013 budget hearing schedule.   They are:
    *Committee of the Whole Public Hearing on the "Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request Act of 2012" and the "Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Support Act of 2012" - Date moved from May 8 to April 30, 2012

    *Markup of the Committee on Housing and Workforce Development - Date moved from April 30 to May 2, 2012

    *Markup of the Committee on Public Service and Consumer Affairs - Date moved from April 30 to May 2, 2012

  • New page for committee-agency Q&A:   The DC Council has created a new page for agency responses.   According to the council's web content manager Catherine Wigginton, performance and budget responses will be in the same place and organized by committee.   Even cooler is that the information will be archived so past info will be available in the future (!!!!).
  • Hearing added to testify about public education budget:   Mayor Vince Gray and DME De'Shawn Wright will hold a second hearing for residents and others to testify about the public education budget.   The second date is March 8.   Details about registering to testify are in a previous blog post.

    The February 22 and March 8 hearings afford the community to inform the mayor about individual budget proposals for DCPS campuses prior to the completion of the FY 2013 budget.

  • Call to action for affordable housing:   The Continuum of Housing campaign, an effort of CNHED and blogged on Housing for All, is encouraging residents to call on Mayor Gray to restore the commitment to affordable housing.
    As Mayor Gray sets his priorities in this year's budget, we call on him to Restore the Commitment to Affordable Housing. It's never too soon to remind the Mayor how much you believe all DC residents deserve decent safe housing that they can afford!

    Please copy and paste the following email to the Mayor and feel free to add your own comments. Then send it to 10 friends and colleagues and ask them to do the same!

    Email the Mayor at eom@dc.gov

    Dear Mayor Gray,
    It's time to restore the commitment to affordable housing!
    Tens of thousands of District residents struggle each month to afford their housing, and thousands more are homeless. The District has programs that would help these individuals and families live in homes they can afford, but they are currently under-funded and unable to meet the growing need.

    Affordable housing programs like Housing First, the Local Rent Supplement Program, the Housing Production Trust Fund, and the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP) have helped thousands of District residents achieve stable housing, send their children to college, become first-time homeowners and stabilize their neighborhoods.

    It's time to restore the commitment to affordable housing so all District residents can have homes where they can succeed and contribute to a vibrant, diverse Washington, DC.

    Mayor Gray, you can begin to build a full Continuum of Housing by:
    *Restoring $18 million to the Housing Production Trust Fund for its intended purpose of housing production and preservation.
    *Fully funding the Local Rent Supplement Program from the General Fund, including $6 million to address a projected shortfall in the DC Housing Authority's Local Rent Supplement Program budget
    *Investing $5 million from the Community Benefits Fund for Housing First and $5 million for the Local Rent Supplement Program to serve new people.
    *Maintaining funding for the Home Purchase Assistance Program. If federal funds for HPAP are cut, the city should keep the program whole with additional local funds.

  • Ward 2's CM Jack Evans on oversight and the FY 2013 budget:   This is from the CM's February 16 newsletter.
    This week the Council met at its annual retreat to review legislative priorities, receive briefings from various officials and make plans for the coming year. We also recently received the audit of the fiscal year 2011 budget - known as the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report ("CAFR"), an event of particular interest to me as Chair of the Council's Committee on Finance and Revenue.

    First, the good news from the FY 2011 CAFR: the District sustained its 15th annual balanced budget and "clean" audit. In short, our finances today are a far cry from the desperate straits we faced in the mid-1990's. The audit also confirmed we have no "material weaknesses" (we had 2 in FY 2008), and reduced our "significant deficiencies" from 5 to 2. I am glad we have made meaningful progress on our internal control systems. Every year the District spends millions on various audit functions - not only the CAFR, but of course the operations of the DC Auditor and the Office of the Inspector General. A few years ago, we decided to pool all this information more systematically and bring in under-performing agencies to submit remediation plans to correct the deficiencies. This new approach has begun to pay off.

    We finished FY 2011 with a surplus of nearly $240 million, which now resides in our savings accounts. While I am glad that our financial position remains so strong, this surplus has caused a lot of anger among the hundreds of thousands of District residents who were asked to pay a number of new taxes and fees in last year's budget, which I voted against. Before we rush to spend this money on an ever-expanding government, I think we need to take a hard look at making more sustainable spending choices. We have already received briefings on the status of the current FY 2012 budget by Mayor Gray and are expecting the upcoming FY 2013 budget submission from the Mayor in late March. While we have a windfall now, indications are that the Mayor will seek to spend all of this money and more to address potential gaps in the budget if he does not begin to spend within his budget.

    Every year, seemingly, we face "spending pressures" in the middle of the fiscal year - but since it is February the Mayor has the opportunity to review these problems and take corrective action so that we end FY 2012 with a balanced budget. A more difficult challenge will be the work of the Mayor and the Council to balance the FY 2013 budget. Unfortunately, the government has built in cost increases every year, so that we pass the biggest budget in our history each year in spite of the difficult economic climate - no other state goes through recessions without making tough spending choices as a result. Clearly this spring we will have some very serious challenges facing us and many tough decisions to make. I hope that with your help we can convince the Mayor and my colleagues to find efficiencies within existing agency budgets by making tough choices rather than simply increasing taxes every year.

    Before the budget is released, we first go through the performance oversight process. Over the past two weeks, I have sent a number of questions to the agencies under my purview to collect data on agency structure and recent spending. After I review what has worked and what has not, I will be in a better position to make recommendations on adjustments to the agency budgets for next year. Thanks for your support during this process, and please feel free to reach out to my office as well as to my colleagues to share your views.

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