Much in Mayor Muriel Bowser’s fiscal 2020 budget of $15.5 billion would be welcomed in Ward 2, including a few items that would benefit Georgetown specifically.
The budget bill was passed twice by the Council on two separate days, May 14 and May 28 — the District’s version of a bicameral legislative system. Now it just needs to be certified by Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt. And that’s the problem.
As of June 11, the CFO had refused to sign off on the entire budget. He regards as unacceptable the transfer of $49 million from one account to another that is in the budget as passed. The Council has proposed transferring this amount from a fund being built as a reserve to pay back bondholders for the construction, in 1998 and 2010, of the Washington Convention Center and hotel into an active fund to pay for the repair of dilapidated public housing. According to DeWitt, that is a breach of the bond agreement.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson has vehemently defended the transfer, setting off an impasse between him and the CFO. There is even talk of a possible D.C. government shutdown if the budget isn’t passed.
As passed by the Council on May 28, the budget is supposed to go into effect on Oct. 1. About $7 billion of the total is federal grant money, used to fund Medicare and other formula-based national programs paid for by residents’ income taxes and other federal sources.
Slightly more than half of the total — $8.6 billion — funds all the so-called discretionary programs at the Council’s direction. Most of the disputes among the local legislators were over subsidies for hospitals and public schools, including charter schools, that saw a $56.4-million dollar increase for fiscal 2020.
Among the increases benefiting Ward 2 in the budget, according to the mayor’s office, is $74.2 million dedicated to fully modernize the Francis-Stevens Education Campus on 2425 N St. NW and 2130 G St. NW. Safe at Home, a program enabling vulnerable seniors to stay in their homes as they age, was increased by $2 million. And $500,000 has been allotted for a senior dental-care program.
Georgetown would be directly impacted by other budgeted programs, including $122 million to fund a K Street Transitway with a dedicated bus corridor down the middle of the street. Teams of two-to-four Metropolitan Police Department officers patrolling neighborhoods on bicycles and on foot — a new, tested approach that has been particularly visible in Georgetown over the last few months — would be expanded with $3 million. Also, $28.2 million would be used to pave and maintain deteriorating streets and sidewalks and $240 million to improve streetscapes and support urban forestry over the next six years.
But Mayor Bowser’s budget has been criticized for not being full of the bold big ideas that the mayor campaigned on to win a second term, according to the Washington Post. Lacking are budget items to address affordable housing and a more equitable sharing of prosperity across the District, this in a time when the city is experiencing a booming economy.