- The Washington Times - Friday, October 17, 2008

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty on Thursday outlined plans to close the city’s $131 million budget shortfall through measures such as freezing or eliminating vacant jobs and a council approval of a lottery proposal he has already submitted three times.

“Tomorrow, the administration will send a balanced budget to the city council,” said Mr. Fenty, a Democrat. “Our goal was to maintain all of the city´s core services to residents and that´s exactly what we did.”

Mr. Fenty’s gap-shrinking measures follow revised revenue estimates by Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi last month that showed the city is facing a $130.7 million shortfall in its $5.7 billion budget for fiscal 2009.

Although officials say the District has fared better than other jurisdictions across the country in the economic downturn, the picture gets bleaker in 2010, when the city faces a $152 million shortfall.

For the current fiscal year, Mr. Fenty’s plans include delaying the implementation of a $10 million enhanced retirement benefit program for city employees and saving roughly $31 million in part by eliminating or freezing about 200 vacant positions.

The moves include eliminating four vehicle-training instructor positions in the police academy and delaying the hiring of 13 crime-scene technicians.

In the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, Mr. Fenty proposed freezing one position and eliminating 12, including a public affairs specialist position and one fire inspection technician position.

Mr. Fenty’s proposals also include elimination of $475,000 in local funding for the Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Commission and using $17 million in additional revenue from fiscal 2008 in fiscal 2009.

Mr. Fenty said awarding the D.C. Lottery contract to a new vendor, W2I, will bring in an additional $5 million in revenue per year, and $1.25 million in fiscal 2009. But he faces strong opposition from the council.

The current vendor, Lottery Technology Enterprises, has operated the lottery for 25 years but was fined $1.4 million last month for security breaches. But council members have doubts about one-year-old W2I’s ties to developer Warren C. Williams Jr., who ran a nightclub that was closed after a fatal stabbing.

Mr. Fenty also said the disconnection of “hundreds of unused or seldom-used” telephone lines and using mobile phone share-plans will save the city $3.4 million.

The council is scheduled to hold a public roundtable on the proposals Friday morning. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, a Democrat, has expressed concerns, including whether the plan takes into account costs associated with overtime and special education.

“The council remains committed to acting quickly and constructively to take whatever steps are necessary to close this gap, while attempting to soften the impact on services and government operations as much as possible,” Mr. Gray said.

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