Newsletter: The Budget Is Almost Done!
Yesterday I joined with all my colleagues to give preliminary approval to the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, which will fund all the agencies and programs for the District next year. It is an immense task to review and make changes to our $14.5 billion budget, and I want to take a moment to thank my outstanding legislative and committee staff. They work hard on your behalf all year round, but during these last eight weeks they have spent late nights and weekends away from family and friends to do the analysis, negotiating, and cajoling needed to put in place some of the innovative initiatives we are funding.
Full details on the budget are below in the legislative update.
As many of you also know, budget season coincided with other challenging moments at the Wilson Building. I want to make sure you are aware of the statements I put out regarding the troubling remarks made by my colleague, Trayon White. They can be found here and here. Hate speech of any kind has no place in our city, and I sent a letter to Mayor Bowser and my colleagues the morning after a detestable rally was held on the steps of the Wilson Building. I am pleased that the rally’s organizer has resigned from his position on the board of the D.C. Housing Authority.
I want to thank everyone who has written, called, and texted me to express your opinions. As I mention in the letter, I am trying to pull together faith and other community leaders to see this as an opportunity to have the challenging discussions we need to have as a city about racial equity, anti-Semitism, and gentrification. I continue to believe that we can overcome these challenges if we build relationships and see our different backgrounds and experiences as a strength. I welcome your thoughts on how we can do this moving forward.
The first vote approving the Fiscal Year 2019 budget is done! Some of you know that approval of the budget is a multi-part process. Between now and May 29, when we take a second and final vote on the allocation of dollars, there will be some tweaking. So if you have a concern, let me know! There will also be a second vote on the legislation supporting next year’s budget likely in early June.
The Washington Post has a story in this morning’s paper giving a more comprehensive view of the budget. The big headlines involved funding for Metro: D.C., Virginia, and Maryland have combined to create a $500 million dedicated funding stream to operate Metro. D.C.’s share of $178 million will come from a three cent increase on the commercial property tax rate, a new six percent tax on all ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, and increases in the sales tax (up to six percent) and the hotel tax (up to 14.95 percent).
I very much support a dedicated funding stream for Metro. However, I am concerned that the decision-making process on the tax changes largely happened without public input. In fact, the budget proposes raising the commercial property tax rate an extra penny to $1.89 per $100 assessed value to also create dedicated funding for arts and humanities related organizations in the city. This happened without testimony or input from our commercial property owners. I do agree with the tax on ride-sharing, as studies have shown it adds to congestion and competes for riders with public transportation. However, the initial proposal was lower and the increase came as a surprise to everyone, including myself.
Putting our tax dollars and efforts toward making sure every District resident can get a living wage career and affordable housing was my North Star, my guiding principle, of this budget. As I mentioned above, the budget is an all-hands-on-deck effort. As chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, I made recommendations to the full Council on job and adult literacy related programs. I also concentrated a lot of efforts on the Housing Committee, and I want to thank Chairwoman Anita Bonds and her staff for being great partners.
Here are some highlights of our specific efforts and initiatives in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget:
PRODUCING AFFORDABLE HOUSING & PROTECTING SENIORS
An innovative new housing subsidy to give financial assistance to low- and moderate-income seniors who have fixed incomes and cannot afford rising rents. This program will help fill that financial gap and allow residents to age in place.
- A new fund to help seniors with reverse mortgages facing foreclosure. This one-time funding will help seniors remain in their homes, prevent homelessness, and help keep families and neighborhoods stable.
- New legislation allowing the District to solicit Housing Production Trust Fund applications up to a year earlier to produce and preserve affordable housing more efficiently.
- Redirection of funds in public housing repairs, emergency rental assistance, and low- to moderate-income homeownership programs.
EXPANDING WORKFORCE PROGRAMS
- $1 million to increase capacity at the D.C. Central Kitchen, one of the District’s most successful culinary job training programs. The grant will help DCCK purchase a new building, which will also increase its ability to produce healthy meals and help close the District's food gap.
- $1.5 million to continue the Career Pathways Innovation Fund grant program which provides literacy training integrated with occupational training for District jobseekers.
- $175,000 to enhance oversight of workforce development programs by the Office of the D.C. Auditor, the legislative audit arm of the District.
ENHANCING EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
- $500,000 to conduct a pilot adult literacy training program for the District’s lowest-level learners through the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.
- $500,000 to expand Out-of-School Time grants, providing access to before-school, after-school, and summertime enrichment programs for District children and their families.
SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESS
- A living wage certification program created to certify District employers who pay a living wage to their employees and incentivize higher wages. The program also includes a new directory of local employers paying a living wage for consumer use.
Hear Me on the Radio: You might know I grew up in Baltimore, but did you know that one of my first jobs was counting concessions money at Camden Yards? You can learn more fun facts about me in my short profile on D.C. Radio’s new Council show, From the Dais. Take a listen here and stay tuned for future episodes!
Happenings in the Neighborhood: I look forward to taking advantage of the warm weather that’s settled in and hope to see you in the neighborhood soon. Take a look at a few upcoming community events below:
- Open Arms Housing Benefit Night at Pete’s Apizza: Wednesday, May 16, from 6:00-8:00pm at Pete’s (4940 Wisconsin Avenue NW)
- Bike to Work Day: Friday, May 18, beginning at 5:30am at over 100 pit stops throughout the region
- Street Lighting Town Hall: Saturday, May 19, from 1:00-3:00pm at the Palisades Library (4901 V St. NW)
- Street Lighting Town Hall: Wednesday, May 23, from 6:00- 8:00pm at the Lamond-Riggs Neighborhood Library (5401 South Dakota Ave. NE)
- Glover Park Day: Saturday, June 2, from 11:00am-5:00pm at Guy Mason Recreation Center (3600 Calvert St. NW)
- Kennedy Street Festival: Saturday, June 9, from 11:00am-3:00pm along the Kennedy Street NW corridor
- Pride Parade: Saturday, June 9, from 4:30-7:30pm from 22nd & P St. NW to 14th & R Streets NW
Thanks so much for reading.