Mayor Gray Submits Fiscal Year 2014 Budget to Council

Yesterday, Mayor Gray released his Fiscal Year 2014 proposed budget to the D.C. Council (press release below after the jump). This will begin the cycle of Budget Town Hall meetings (Ward 1’s is scheduled for April 11, 2013, from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at the Columbia Heights Community Center) and DC Council hearings. While the proposed budget does tend to set a lot of the broad budgetary priorities, there is still a lot of wiggle room — which is why the Council hearings are important.

By going to the Council’s budget meetings residents can testify re: priorities and projects for which they are advocates. In reviewing Mayor Gray’s priorities, there are two that I think align with continuing needs we have in the community, which I believe makes them low hanging fruit. Those are the “multi-million dollar investment in expanding, improving and renovating the District’s parks and recreation facilities and programs” and his commitment to affordable housing.

Field house at the Park View Rec Center in 2009.

Field house at the Park View Rec Center in 2009.

While the Park View Recreation Center has recently benefited from outdoor improvements and upgrades and renovations to the main building, the historic 1932 field house still needs to be addressed, as well as the swimming pool and pool house. The entire rec center also needs to have a 10-15 year master plan for being completely reworked. The recent renovations were executed in a piece meal fashion and neither DPR or DGS was willing to entertain a master plan for the acre and a half property without a budget to back it up. This budget season, with the emphasis on recreation, could very well make renovating the old field house, if not more, a winnable argument in the Wilson Building.

The Hebrew Home for the Aged, at 1125 Spring Road, in 1967.

The Hebrew Home for the Aged, at 1125 Spring Road, in 1967.

Few will argue that affordable housing isn’t critical. In our area, every new development includes the conversation about how many units will be affordable. But, one thing that no one really seems to be talking about is affordable housing for seniors. Politicians and activists talk about aging in place and keeping seniors in their homes, and this is good.  But I don’t really hear anyone talking about expanding or diversifying affordable housing options for seniors. In our community, I think we have an excellent opportunity to do both.

The old Hebrew Home for the Aged, located at 1125 Spring Road, is currently vacant and owned by the District. Residents have talked about renovating it for affordable senior housing in the past but to no avail. This year would be a good year to restart the discussion and get things moving. All in all, this would be an easy win/win for our seniors.

Once I’m able to get more information on the Mayor’s proposed budget, I’m sure I’ll find other opportunities to head to the Wilson building and get behind as an advocate. I would encourage others to attend the budget town hall and Wilson Building budget meetings as well.

The full press release is after the jump

Mayor Gray Submits Fiscal Year 2014 Budget to Council

Budget Expands Investments in Quality of Life for All District Residents, Affordable Housing, Education, Public Safety, District’s Public-Sector Workers

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Mayor Vincent C. Gray today released his Fiscal Year 2014 Proposed Budget and Financial Plan. The $10.1 billion budget leverages the District’s strong financial position to make major investments in expanding affordable housing, strengthening education and workforce development, and safeguarding public safety without raising new taxes or fees.

“After two years of sometimes-difficult decisions made to strengthen our fiscal health and hard work to grow our economy, we are now in the position to begin investing for tomorrow and funding our priorities at a higher level,” Mayor Gray said. “This budget makes significant investments that will boost the quality of life for all District residents — including a historic investment in the expansion of affordable housing.”

The plan’s priorities include funding for affordable housing, school construction and modernization, expanded library hours and construction, bringing the Metropolitan Police Department to 4,000 officers, and investments in streetcars and bicycle infrastructure.

The budget has three overall goals consistent with the Mayor’s One City Action Plan: 1) Grow and Diversify the District’s Economy; 2) Educate and Prepare the Workforce for the New Economy; and 3) Improve the Quality of Life for All.

Improve the Quality of Life for All

The Mayor’s budget reflects $100 million in investments over Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014 to produce or preserve 10,000 units of affordable housing by 2020. These include:

  • $86.9 million in the Housing Production Trust Fund –
    including $66.9 million in FY 2013 and $20 million in FY 2014;
  • $13.1 million to fund the other recommendations of the
    Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force;
  • A commitment to dedicating 15 percent of the District’s deed-recordation
    and -transfer taxes to the Housing Production Trust Fund on a recurring basis.

The budget also funds other initiatives to improve the quality of life for District residents, including:

  • Fully funding 4,000 sworn officers for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD);
  • $7.2 million for MPD and $8 million for the Fire & Emergency Medical Services
    (FEMS) Department in FY 2013 for vehicle-fleet replacement initiatives;
  • Replacing $27.9 million in lost federal funds to continue reforming the District’s
    Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program;
  • The beginning of a $400 million, six-year investment in the District’s streetcar program
    and a $6.2 million annual operating subsidy – including completion of the District’s
    1st streetcar line (Minnesota Avenue to Georgetown), completion of the
    engineering for the Anacostia Line and a study on adding additional north-south lines;
  • A $16 million investment in the District’s bicycle infrastructure, including new
    bike lanes and trails, continued bike-friendly improvements to streetscapes,
  • and the addition of 10 new Capital Bikeshare stations;
  • A multi-million dollar investment in expanding, improving
    and renovating the District’s parks and recreation facilities and programs;
  • Expanding hours and days of service to seven days a week at all the
    District’s public libraries, and investing in a major, $103 million renovation
    of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library as well as construction or
    renovation of libraries in Cleveland Park, the Palisades and Woodridge;
  • Investing $15 million in the One City Fund, which will provide competitive grants
    of up to $100,000 a year to non-profit organizations in education, job training,
    health, services for seniors, the arts, public safety, and the environment;
  • And pay raises for District employees – union and non-union alike – including,
    for most, the first raise they’ve had in between four and seven years.

Educate and Prepare the Workforce for the New Economy

The Mayor’s budget makes major investments in public education and workforce development, including:

  • Increasing investment in operating funds for public education
    (both traditional public and public charter schools) by $79.3 million;
  • Increasing the local funds dedicated to the charter school facilities
    allotment by $7.4 million;
  • A $162 million investment in construction and modernization of high schools,
    including the construction of Ballou High School, Dunbar High School,
    Ellington High School of the Arts, and Roosevelt High School and the
    modernization planning and design for Spingarn Career and
    Technical Education Center in FY 2014;
  • The beginning of a $242 million investment over six years in modernizing
    all the District’s middle schools, including the construction of new Brookland
    and Shaw Middle Schools and complete modernization of the rest of
    DCPS’s middle schools;
  • The first outlay – to the tune of $128 million in Fiscal Year 2014 – of
    a $920.5 million plan over six years for elementary-school modernization;

Grow and Diversify the District’s Economy

The budget proposal includes hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in development and infrastructure projects that will enable continued growth of the District’s economy, including:

  • Up to $40 million for public infrastructure support as
    commercial firms redevelop the Skyland Shopping Center;
  • An $18 million investment in the relocation of DC Water
    facilities from The Yards in the Capitol Riverfront area and
    transfer of land for a mixed-use development project;
  • A $13 million investment to complete the environmental assessment
    of Poplar Point and prepare the land for transfer from the
    National Park Service to the District;
  • A $622 million investment in building a new Frederick Douglass Bridge;
  • And $32.4 million for Great Streets projects, including infrastructure and
    streetscape upgrades, in neighborhoods across the District.

Other Fiscal Year 2014 Proposed Budget and Financial Plan Highlights:

  • Effects of federal sequestration “baked in” to the revenue estimate;

  • Eliminates the tax on out-of-state municipal bonds;

  • Repeals the Possessory Interest Tax on housing purchased under the Land Acquisition for Housing Development Opportunities (LAHDO) Program.

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