- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2002

The D.C. Council yesterday passed a $5.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2003 that saved some essential services for the poor by negotiating a new tax and made some last-minute cuts in the Metropolitan Police Department.
In amending the budget the council approved a measure that would allow the city to begin taxing interest accrued on out-of-state and municipal revenue bonds, effective Jan. 1, 2003.
The measure, introduced by Democratic council members Vincent B. Orange Sr., Ward 5, Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4, and Jim Graham, Ward 1, will garner $6.6 million for the city next year and save several city services from being cut.
The bond-tax amendment, which passed by an 8-5 vote will return funding to seven different city services including public libraries, the harbor patrol, the Office of Motion Pictures, the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, the Department of Human Services burial assistance program and the Interim Disability Assistance program which subsidizes Social Security disability payments until residents are processed through the federal government.
"This [amendment] is a step forward in supporting residents who are the most in need," Mr. Fenty said.
But some council members said taxing out-of-state bonds will come back to haunt the city.
"The reason the exemption was given in the first place is because D.C. issues a limited variety of bonds most of those are grabbed up by institutions and we wanted to allow our residents better options by not taxing any bonds," Mr. Evans said.
"Even in our worst economic times, we did not seek to impose this tax because it is a bad idea."
Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, also opposed the measure, but for different reasons.
"As appealing as this amendment is to support services near and dear to my heart I can't see supporting this tax with no advanced notice to our residents," she said.
Mrs. Schwartz said that after the stock market began to decline, many residents switched to bonds with the city's "word" that they would be tax-exempt.
She said the council should wait until budget deliberations begin in 2003, when residents will be given an opportunity to express their views in public hearings.
But Mr. Orange said "It was a good day for the residents of this city who need the most help."
Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the council have been deliberating over budget cuts for two weeks to avoid a potential $323 million deficit next year.
Several city agencies will be forced to cut spending next year, including $30.3 million from public schools, $61.2 million from social services and $15.6 million from public safety. Alterations also were made to save some programs, but the budget submitted by the mayor a week ago essentially remained the same.
The five-hour hearing became contentious at times with council members fighting to maintain their composure because of their contempt for some of the amendments introduced. The budget vote finished at 5 p.m. and passed by an 11-2 vote with council members David A. Catania, at-large Republican and Sandy Allen, Ward 8 Democrat, voting against.
"Most of the increases in the budget are on the backs of working people and our most vulnerable," Mrs. Allen said.
Mr. Catania said during the hearing that he cannot support the budget, because "the city has more of a [chief financial officer] problem than a revenue problem," referring to the city's independent finance officer Natwar M. Ghandi.
"Every year from 1999 to 2001, the revenue projections have been low-balled with a half-billion separation from the CFO projections and the year-end surpluses."
But the council applauded the hard work of Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, in cutting nonessential and vacant D.C. police jobs, such as crossing guards and crime analysts, by targeting them for civilian positions, thereby saving $754,000 in salaries. The funds will be redirected to keeping one of the city's halfway houses open.
Mrs. Patterson said the halfway houses are essential for the Department of Corrections to maintain the stability of the D.C. Jail.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide