The DC Council passed the 2019 budget May 15. It is marked by increases in taxes that are to cover the District’s $178 million obligation to Metro.
Sales tax increases by a quarter percentage point to 6 percent, and taxes on alcohol sales by liquor stores increase by 1.25%. Controversially, the ridesharing fee on services like Uber and Lyft has been increased to match the sales tax at 6 percent, or 60 cents on a ten-dollar ride. The commercial tax rate on properties worth more than %5 million has increased by 20 cents, rising from 1.69 to 1.89 on every $100 of assessed value.
Small Business Benefit
But the budget also includes items that benefit the people and places on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, May 17th, Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) stopped at local culinary supply store Hill’s Kitchen (713 D St SE) to announce The Small Retailer Property Tax Credit (SRPTC), which raises the lower commercial property tax bracket from $3 million 5o $5 million and offers a refundable commercial property tax credit to DC businesses worth up to $5,000 a year for businesses grossing less than $2.5 million. The credit could benefit an estimated 4,400 businesses in the District. At the Hill’s Kitchen event Mendelson, who introduced the bill, said he had worked with Allen, “who has been a long-time proponent of small business, which is why we’re at Hill’s Kitchen,” adding that the credit was designed to take the burden off small retailers.
Hill’s Kitchen owner Leah Daniels said that “It is really a nice sign that the council, both the chair and our local council member, are trying to work to get retail to come and stay.”
“I don’t know how much $5,000 will do,” Daniels added. “But it’s a good step in the right direction.”
The budget also aids several other small businesses on the Hill by allocating funds to Eastern Market. Included is funding to study ways to assure the future prosperity of the Market, as well as to repair longstanding building issues and to produce a study of security bollards for the Eastern Market streetscape during weekend closures.
Small events are also given a break. In the wake of the Capitol Hill Classic, which faces up to $10,000 in costs associated with the enforcement of the Clear Routes Initiative, the budget provides financial assistance to small charitable special events in the District to defray fees assessed by District agencies for homeland security preparedness.
In a nod to the issues voiced by many on the Hill in dealing with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), eight new full-time positions with DCRA are funded to assist with housing permits and inspections. The hires are intended to provide an expedited permit review process and help ensure that housing inspections happen in a timely manner.
The budget also addresses the Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge (CRIAC) which funds the system of tunnels currently under construction that store and funnel stormwater and sewage to the Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant. Provision for relief is included for some non-profit entities, such as churches and cemeteries and lower- and middle-income customers who face disproportionately high CRIAC fees. The Council established a $12 million CRIAC relief fund to offset eligible non-profits’ CRIAC fee and subsidize 50 percent of the CRIAC fee for District rate-payers in households that earn less than $150,000 per year.
President of Historic Congressional Cemetery Paul Williams said that the cemetery has no irrigation system and water run-off flows into the woods south of the property. Still, the National Historic Landmark’s monthly water bill had increased from $300 to $3,600 over just a few years. He said the organization had been working with other cemeteries to apply for relief.
“Any relief is certainly welcome,” said Williams, “and we look forward to determining what exactly our relief will be for this important non-profit, National Historic Landmark.
Ward 6 will also benefit from new funding for its parks. Last year, Councilmember Allen secured funding to begin a redesign of Eastern Market Metro Plaza. the area surrounding the metro’s entrance. This year’s budget includes $2.6 million to improve lighting, install a much-needed playground, create a seating area and shade and update pedestrian walkways. For Garfield Park, $1 million has been allocated to build out the connector to create pedestrian and bicycle transit options along Third Street SE between Navy Yard and Garfield Park. The budget also includes $500,000 for the playground at 3rd and I Streets, SW, beside the Southwest Neighborhood Library. The funding to complete the needed improvements will be available in October, with a goal of having the newly modernized library and playground open at the same time. The budget also includes an additional $400,000 for the upgrades to Lansburgh Park starting in October. And an additional $100,000 was set aside to complete planning for the Virginia Avenue park as well as pocket parks in Hill East.
$55 million in funding has been added to modernizations and building improvements at a number of Capitol Hill schools, including Maury Elementary, Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, School-Within-School @ Goding, JO Wilson, and Brent Elementary. Jefferson and Eliot-Hine will maintain full-funding secured in previous budgets. And $3 million in the budget has been allocated to new playgrounds at Miner and Tyler Elementary Schools.
Ward 6 Representative to the DC State Board of Education (SBOE) Joe Weedon was enthusiastic about the attention received by Ward 6 schools and DC education in the final budget, thanking Allen “for his work in supporting our city’s students.”
“The continued investments in school modernization and other capital projects, including the play spaces at Tyler and Miner, will help to ensure that our schools meet the needs of our students and community for the coming decades,” Weedon said.
Other aspects of the educational future are also funded. For parents with a child aged up to 3 years the budget establishes a Child Care Tax Credit worth $1,000 to help off-set the high cost of child care.
The budget provides funds for a full-time employee in the Office of the Attorney General focused on school residency fraud, a move Weedon also commended.
Improvements to Capitol Hill roadways are prominently featured in the budget, which includes or maintains funding to support streetscape redesigns for Pennsylvania Ave SE, Maryland Ave NE, and Florida Avenue NE. $5 million is specifically earmarked for Ward 6 local street repairs. But pedestrians get a nod, too; the budget includes $10 million for repairs of sidewalks citywide and ramps up that funding in the next four years with a commitment to pedestrians and accessibility.
District Council will vote a second time on the budget May 29 before passing it back to the Mayor. The District budget for Fiscal Year 2019 goes into effect October 1. View the full document at http://dccouncil.us/budget/2019