Bowser’s ‘Fair Shot’ $19.5 Billion Budget Adds Cops, 2 Schools
By March 21, 2022 0 411•
The fiscal 2023 budget proposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser at a D.C. Council meeting March 18 hits $19.5 billion, a historic high. That is 10 percent higher than the revised 2022 D.C. budget, and it faces much discussion before final votes for passage in May and June.
The mayor’s two top focuses in the multi-layered budget appear to be around affordability and public safety — not only short-term and immediate solutions but deep long-term ones, she explained. “That’s because the budget is so big,” she said. And that is because of unexpectedly deep pockets in revenue and reserves, thanks mainly to federal pandemic relief money and new tax revenues that filled D.C. coffers in 2021.
The local portion of the proposed budget amounts to $10.7 billion.
Bowser calls it her “Fair Shot” budget. “It’s about how we can better ensure all residents have access to safe and dignified housing and safer roads,” the mayor announced on Friday. “It makes big investments in our young people through our schools and facilities including significant investments in early learning and out-of-school time activities.”
The budget also reflects the findings of recent polls (including by The Washington Post) that the increase of violent crime in the city is voters’ top concern.
The mayor’s budget expands the Metropolitan Police Department budget by five percent, allowing the force to be increased from the current 3,580 officers (the number cut back in 2020) to a base of 4,000. It would add at least 40 more firefighters, 100 full-time crossing guards and traffic controllers and a full-time leaf, snow and other obstacle street and bicycle lane cleaning crew. $251 million is slotted for a new jail, including funding for a new “Life Coach” program.
The new budget proposes allocating $45 million to build a second high school in Ward 3 at the MacArthur Boulevard site of Georgetown Day School. It could be opened by fall of 2023 to serve students who are zoned for the now overcrowded Hardy Middle School on 35th Street, serving Georgetown and Burleith. The budget also proposes a $113 million to build a new stand-alone middle school in Shaw that has been demanded for years by parents whose middle school children now attend the aging Benjamin Banneker Academic High School complex near Howard University. The new school that is proposed to be named Center City Middle School would not be built until 2026.
The $2.2 billion education budget would “address the immediate pandemic-related needs of our students and DC Public Schools families so that they can have a strong equity-based model,” according to Bowser. It includes adding more high-quality child care seats across the city and $68 million for 500 infant and toddler places under the DC Public Schools. It increases the University of the District of Columbia’s capital budget by over $18 million and adds $900,000 for extended learning support.
Also, $13.5 million has been budgeted for expanded recreation programs starting this summer, and another $60 million to build a new indoor sports complex on the RFK campus.
A proposed $500 million for a Housing Production Trust Fund would add thousands of new affordable homes throughout the District. It would expand legal assistance to families for rent and to buy homes and would help more Washingtonians pass on their homes to the next generation.
“Some funds are included to fix duplicative and oversight expenses,” the mayor said. “Especially when it involves time-sensitive dollars like those attached to American Rescue Plan Act to repair our bridges, roadways, and sidewalks; or when it duplicates oversight functions of the D.C. Auditor or the D.C. Council itself.”
More than 500 new D.C. government jobs were posted for hire this week that would “help get the nearly $11-billion-dollar spending plan out the door,” according to the mayor. “They will provide expertise and help to the 37,000 men and women who got us through the last two years, and who are going to propel us in our comeback.”
Some D.C. Council members proposed that additional funds be added to the final budget to expand paid leave benefits for city employees.