- The Washington Times - Monday, March 29, 2004

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday submitted a $6.25 billion budget to the D.C. Council, whose members expressed immediate concerns about his plans to spend an additional $340 million next year.

The additional spending is part of a $4.2 billion local budget based on projected revenue collected by the District. The other $2 billion comes from the federal government to cover the costs of the courts system and certain specialized grants.

The human support services sector, which includes the Department of Health, the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Human Services, would receive the largest increase in funding, compared with last year.

Under the mayor’s plan, human services spending would rise $123.1 million, from $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion, and consist of more than a quarter of the local budget.

Education, which includes public schools and charter schools, would see an increase of $85.4 million, from $963 million to $1 billion.

Public safety, which includes the Metropolitan Police Department, the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department and the Department of Corrections, would receive an additional $48.6 million, from $717 million to $765 million, under the mayor’s proposal.

The governmental support sector, which handles government operations and infrastructure, would increase by $51.4 million, from $207 million to $258 million.

Public Works, which includes the Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works, would be the only sector of government to see a cut in spending, compared with last year. The mayor’s plan proposes to trim $8.2 million from $308 million that was approved last year.

Mr. Williams, a Democrat, yesterday won nearly unanimous praise from council members for soliciting their input on issues such as health care, affordable housing and neighborhood investment. However, several members disagreed with his spending priorities and forewarned him that his budget would face adjustments when the council reviews it.

“I have to say I am extremely concerned about a 9 percent growth rate in expenses in our government,” said council member Jack Evans, who is chairman of the council’s Finance and Revenue Committee.

Mr. Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, said he believes a growth rate of 5 or 6 percent was more realistic. “We’ll be looking to make cuts to get it in that area,” he said.

Council member David Catania, at-large Republican, said city expenditures have risen 33 percent since Mr. Williams submitted his first budget for fiscal 2000. “I dare say we haven’t seen 33 percent improvement in our government,” he said.

D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi said if the revenue enhancements in the budget plan were implemented, expenditures in future years would decline to 4 percent in 2006, 4.5 percent in 2007 and 4 percent in 2008.

The budget plan calls for $90 million in revenue from additional taxes, fees, fines and fund transfers. Motorists’ fines and fees are projected to raise $21 million as part of an overall plan to boost city revenue by nearly $47 million in nontax revenue in fiscal 2005.

Nearly $8 million would come from more aggressive automated traffic enforcement. Mr. Williams said that money was just an “ancillary benefit” of making city streets safer.

“It really is designed to promote public safety with the added benefit of revenue for the city,” he said.

Mr. Evans raised concerns about fee increases such as higher parking-meter rates, which would be raised to a 50-cent-per-hour base fee. “The money raised is so small and the antagonism generated by our citizens is so great,” he said.

The council voted in July 2002 to exempt itself from its own parking regulations. The measure, coming after a year in which traffic- enforcement officers had cracked down on illegally parked council members’ cars, was sponsored by council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican.

Mr. Evans, Mr. Catania, and seven other council members — Kevin Chavous, Sandra Allen, Adrian Fenty, Jim Graham, Harold Brazil, Vincent Orange and Linda W. Cropp — supported the measure. Council members Phil Mendelson, Kathy Patterson and Sharon Ambrose opposed it.

The exemption, approved but criticized by Mr. Williams, extended to council members the same parking privileges enjoyed by members of Congress — including the freedom to park in bus zones, in restricted spaces near intersections, at building entrances and on restricted residential streets. It also freed council members from having to put money into parking meters.

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