Monday, January 9, 2012

Budget update, January 9

  • Revenue in FY 2013:    The December 22 revenue estimate (PDF) and summary (PDF) from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer reported good news for FY 2012:   Nearly $43 million more in revenue than was projected in September 2011.   The same is not true for the projection for FY 2013.    The December 22 estimate reduces revenue for FY 2013 by $46.4 million.

    What is your organization going to do with this information?   One course of action is to talk with the mayor's budget staff about your budget and policy priorities.   Another might be to talk with the appropriate deputy mayor's staff.   No matter what you do, time is of the essence.

  • Jack Evans on the FY 2013 budget:   In his January 6 newsletter, Ward 2 CM Jack Evans presents his priorities for the FY 2013 budget:   Lowering the top tax rate, reducing spending, banking savings, and moving forward with tax and real property commissions.   And a sample of the Ward 2 CMs take on the council's past budget actions:
    We can raise money in the short term by perpetually increasing taxes and fees, as my colleagues prefer to do, but when we create disincentives for new businesses to locate here we do more harm than good down the road.

    Nothing about what Evans wrote is new, but it is early in the year and process.

  • Budget meetings:   The mayor's budget office expects to have all budget review team meetings (BRTs) completed by the end of January.
  • The List, DCFPI-style:  DCFPI started the new year with their own in and out list and it puts others to shame.

    So we read in the Washington Post Style Section that wonks are out, and tradesmen are in. We have a few other beefs with this year’s "The List," so if DCFPI’s wonk-dom is headed out of fashion, we plan on taking a few others out with us. So here’s our version…

    OUT: SCHOOLS BUDGETS NO ONE EXCEPT MAYBE MARY LEVY CAN UNDERSTAND
    IN: SCHOOLS BUDGETS EVERYONE CAN UNDERSTAND

    Will 2012 be the year that parents, teachers and anyone else interested in school reform can finally read and understand the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) budget? We hope so, and we’ll be working collaboratively to help bring about needed transparency in this large and important area of our budget. The good news is that DCPS is aware of the public’s desire for more clarity and is working on changing how information is presented in the upcoming FY2013 budget. We’re also eagerly anticipating the recommendations of the Public Education Finance Reform Commission, which is chaired by our own Ed Lazere. The commission is taking on a range of critical issues facing DC’s public education system, including the rules and rationale behind the Uniform Per-Student Funding Formula and its impact on both DCPS and DC public charter schools.

    OUT: SEEING THOUSANDS OF REASONABLY-PRICED HOUSING UNITS VANISH
    IN: AN UPDATED COMPREHENSIVE HOUSING STRATEGY TO KEEP DC AFFORDABLE TO ALL

    It’s been six years since DC last outlined a housing blueprint to tackle how to preserve affordable housing for low-income and longtime residents while still welcoming newcomers to our city. This year would be a good time to update our plans. Time is of the essence, given that the District is expected to add over 150,000 new jobs over the next two decades and could need nearly as many new housing units for workers that will fill them. At the same time housing costs continue to soar making it harder for low- and moderate income residents to stay or move into the District.

    OUT: NOT KNOWING HOW WE SPEND OUR TAX DOLLARS
    IN: USING TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE DC BUDGET TRANSPARENCY

    It’s always good to know the who, what and why’s of spending our public dollars, right? CFO Info is the CFO’s newest resource for online budget information. And while it is off to a promising start, it could be improved by providing additional spending details that cannot be found in published budget documents—namely, the ability to look at local and federal spending at the 'activity level' over time. This is where most of the programs and services that DC residents use are found.

    OUT: SUBSIDIES ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE
    IN: INCENTIVES TO JUMPSTART DEVELOPMENT IN AREAS WHERE IT IS MOST NEEDED

    Our New Year’s wish for economic development is that the Tax Review Commission will take a comprehensive look at the effectiveness of DC’s "tax expenditures" — including exemptions, deductions, abatements, credits, and rebates — and develop frameworks for determining which should continue, which should be altered, and how and when new ones should be instituted. According to the most recent tax expenditure report by DC CFO Natwar Gandhi, DC currently has more than 100 tax expenditures that cost the city roughly $2 billion in foregone revenue each year.

    OUT: TALKING ABOUT THE NEED FOR JOBS
    IN: EFFECTIVELY USING RESOURCES TO TRAIN OUR RESIDENTS FOR JOBS NOW AND IN THE FUTURE

    Mayor Gray’s One City One Hire is a good start, but this year we need to start tackling how we can best use our resources to help prepare our residents for the jobs that will be available in the future. We plan on working with the executive and legislative branches to review programs like our DC Works! Career Centers to effectively deploy local and federal monies to help our neighbors get and keep jobs.

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