The Committee on Finance and Revenue, the District Council committee that I chair, held its initial performance oversight hearing last week. Because the purview of the committee is so broad, we hold hearings on three different days. Last week, we heard from the Office of Partnerships and Grant Services, DestinationDC, EventsDC, the Commission on the Arts and Humanities and WMATA.
These hearings give the Council an opportunity to question agency leaders on their performance with regard to their budgets over the past year — where they excelled and where they fell short.
The oversight process also signals the beginning of the budget season. Two weeks ago, the Council held a hearing on the Fiscal Year 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, known as the CAFR. The report — our 19th consecutive “clean” audit opinion — reminds us that the District of Columbia has a lot to be proud of. Not only have we continued to maintain our strong bond ratings, and even secured an upgrade in the past year, but we have also managed to increase our fund balance to $2.17 billion. Additionally, not only were there no reported material weaknesses, there was no yellow book, which is commendable.
It is important to note, however, that there is still room for improvement. As I have said many times in the past, maintaining our fiscal health was no small accomplishment in the past several years, when so many governments have been struggling financially.
For the coming year, our goals must be to plan for our long-term needs, live within our means and not look to immediate fixes that have only a short-term impact. The findings of the CAFR, which was completed on time, resulted in a clean audit and reflect a balanced budget. In some ways, it is not the end of a process but the beginning of new work for us. We need to remain vigilant and continue to perform oversight on the identified areas of concern.
We now undertake the performance oversight process with the findings from the CAFR as a big-picture guide. Over the past few weeks, I sent a number of questions to the agencies under my committee’s purview to collect data on agency structure and recent spending. Once 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.
The Committee on Finance and Revenue will hold its next performance oversight hearing, on the D.C. Lottery, on March 4. Then, on March 8, we will hear from the remaining agencies under the purview of the Committee: the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, the Real Property Tax Appeals Commission and the Office of the Inspector General. In addition to my committee, all of the Council committees are holding similar oversight hearings (a full listing can be found at dccouncil.us).
I will keep you apprised of what I learn from these hearings, but I also welcome your thoughts, questions or testimony regarding these agencies. Please let me know if you would like to attend either hearing.
Jack Evans is the District Council member for
Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.