The D.C. Council is moving ahead with its review of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposed budget and financial plan. I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to secure several important changes to better utilize your tax dollars.
Among other initiatives, we’ve increased funding for education, the arts, legal assistance for low-income residents facing eviction and community liaisons within the District Department of Transportation, who will work with residents and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions to identify and handle basic infrastructure issues. We were able to make these changes without undoing the long-promised tax revisions and reductions the Council approved in 2014, which would have added to what is already a nearly $14-billion budget.
Specifically, Council committees have recommended that we add $12.5 million to the uniform per-student funding formula; utilize $4.5 million to create a new program to provide legal representation to low-income residents facing eviction; increase funding for the Commission on the Arts and Humanities from $20 million to $25 million; and add three new positions within DDOT to improve coordination with affected communities during repairs to our roads, alleys and sidewalks.
These recommendations and others were made by the Council’s eleven committees, each of which reviewed a section of the budget over the past two months. The committees — transportation, finance, education, judiciary, etc. — held multiple public meetings to hear from community members and from the leadership of every department in the D.C. government. Last week, the committees reported out suggested changes to those agencies’ budgets.
The full Council will meet on Thursday, May 25, to discuss all the committee recommendations and work toward creating a single budget and an associated “Budget Support Act,” which supplies language for new policies and programs created in the budget.
On Tuesday, May 30, the Council will take the first of two required votes to approve the budget. Some amendments are likely to be proposed, but before we adjourn that day we’ll need a majority of the Council to affirm the budget for the upcoming year. Two weeks later, on June 13, we’re scheduled to take the second and final vote.
The city’s budget and financial plan is the articulation of our priorities for the upcoming year and beyond. I’m pleased that Mayor Bowser articulated most of the priorities we agree on at the beginning of this process. Having worked with my colleagues to fund some of those priorities at different levels — or support those that weren’t initially included in the budget — I’m confident we’ll pass a budget in a few weeks that continues to move our city forward.
Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.