This week the DC Council voted to pass an FY21 budget for the District, setting funding levels that will begin on October 1. With the necessary shutdowns to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the District is grappling with somewhere north of a $800 million shortfall in tax revenue – a significant loss in a budget of $8.6 billion local dollars and $16.9 billion when you factor in federal programs.
That’s a massive shortfall to fill to ensure the city is fulfilling its most basic services and working toward our shared values of a more inclusive, racially-just, and vibrant community. I’m going to run through some of the key funding areas as well as highlight projects I helped secure funding for in different Ward 6 neighborhoods. But I want to add a quick note: in August, the city’s Chief Financial Officer will issue a revised look at how much revenue the District collected. It is widely expected to be revised downward, meaning the Council would need to revisit our budget to balance it again.
- Schools: This budget increases the Universal Student Per Pupil Funding Formula by 3%, which is the main way our schools are funded. I would have liked to see this increased even more, given the challenges our teachers and students face from COVID-19. That increase includes more at-risk funding, which is the way we try to target additional funding to schools that serve students needing extra support.
- Affordable Housing: Places $109 million into the Housing Production Trust Fund to finance new affordable housing, adds millions to the District’s Housing Preservation Fund which repairs affordable housing units to bring back onto the market, and fully funds the program providing attorneys to unrepresented tenants at no cost during evictions. I added an amendment to our budget creating a tax credit that will cost the District $5 million, but bring in anywhere from $30-50 million in private investment in affordable housing.
- Investing in Community Safety: Reinvested funding from Metropolitan Police Department in programs that get at root causes of violent crime, including violence interruption, school-based mental health, a new domestic violence shelter, housing for returning citizens, job training for transgender/non-gendered/non-binary youth, emergency rental funds to prevent evictions, and more.
- Public Housing Repairs: Puts $50 million into repairing public housing units throughout the District. Last year I fought to move $22 million into this repair fund. This year, thankfully, we were able to double that amount without much of a fight to get these important deeply affordable homes repaired.
A Note on Increasing Revenue: The loss of revenue, especially in a severe drop in sales tax brought on by necessary shutdowns, meant the District is heading into next year with $750-800 million fewer tax dollars than planned. To close that gap, the budget taps into our rainy day fund and freezes pay across most of the government. The Council also found around $60 million in additional revenue by closing out a tax break for large tech companies, and I successfully moved an amendment delaying a tax break for multi-state corporations that we used instead to fund social services for vulnerable neighbors. I also proposed a very modest increase in income tax on individual earners. Under my proposal, someone earning $300,000 would be asked to pay $125 more a year to pay for affordable housing construction. Unfortunately, the amendment failed 8-5.
Ward 6 Neighborhood-Specific Budget Updates:
- Seaton Elementary School was added to the DCPS Modernization Plan. The newly renovated field and playground at Seaton were funded last year.
- Construction is fully funded and underway for a new home in Shaw for Banneker Academic High School.
- $1 million funded for improvements and repairs to Kennedy Recreation Center.
- A feasibility study is underway for a new mid-city by-right neighborhood middle school.
H Street / NoMa
- JO Wilson ES modernization is fully funded with $63.8 million starting in 2024.
- Planning is underway to fully modernize School-Within-School at Goding Elementary School.
- Construction is ongoing to modernize Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan. The project is fully funded and will be complete next year.
- The Mayor’s proposed cuts and delays to the H Street Bridge Project, part of the massive undertaking to rethink Union Station and the surrounding neighborhood, were reversed and restored, with special thanks to Chairman Phil Mendelson for his partnership
- Long-awaited HVAC repairs at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School were funded.
Capitol Hill / Hill East:
- Construction is wrapping up on the modernization of Eliot-Hine Middle School. This budget adds $6 million needed to finalize the project this fall.
- $1 million funded to install high-speed public broadband service at DCHA’s Potomac Gardens and Hopkins Apartments.
- $6.8 million to expand and renovate the Rosedale Pool in 2023-2024.
- Tyler Elementary School was added to the DCPS Modernization Plan, starting in 2026.
- $130,000 to launch a new Eastern Market Main Street Clean Team program.
- $1.5 million for repairs and renovation of the Watkins Elementary field, courts, and playground.
- $500,000 for repairs and improvements at Garfield Park.
- The proposed delay to the renovation of Spielberg Park at 17th and Massachusetts Avenue SE for $1.5 million was reversed, accelerating the project from 2021 to 2020. Special thanks to Chairman Phil Mendelson for his partnership.
- Modernization of the Southeast Neighborhood Library and Eastern Market Metro Park are fully funded and underway.
Southwest / Capitol Riverfront:
- Amidon-Bowen Elementary School funded for an addition, including new space for childcare!
- $1.5 million to renovate the Jefferson MS field in 2022.
- $1 million for repairs and improvements to King-Greenleaf Rec Center
- $1.25 million to design a replacement for Fireboat 1 to protect the growing waterfront community
- $538,000 to restore service cuts to the crucial 74 WMATA bus line. Special thanks to Chairman Phil Mendelson for his partnership.
- $1 million to support DC Central Kitchen’s relocation to a new home at Buzzard Point. Special thanks to Chairman Phil Mendelson for his partnership.
- $125,000 to expand the Southwest BID service area south of M Street. This will allow the Clean Teams to assist with the Audi Field area and neighborhoods not currently receiving Clean Team services. Special thanks to Chairman Phil Mendelson for his partnership.
- Maintains full funding for the new Southwest Library and playground
- $1.2 million for maintenance, operation, programming of Yards & Canal Parks. Special thanks to Chairman Phil Mendelson for his partnership.
As always, I am grateful to the many, many Ward 6 residents who reached out to my office, testified, or attended the Ward 6 Budget Town Hall to share your priorities. I hope you feel this budget is a reflection of the many ways we are all trying to move our community forward for each resident.
Charles Allen (D) is the Ward 6 Councilmember and Chair of the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. Reach him at email@example.com. Learn more at www.charlesallenward6.com