- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - The District of Columbia ended last fiscal year with a $321 million surplus, city officials said Friday, continuing a run of fiscal health since the end of the recession that has outpaced most states and municipalities.

It was the third consecutive year the city has finished with a surplus. Last year, the surplus topped $400 million. This year’s haul was split about halfway between higher-than-expected tax revenues and underspending by city agencies.

All but $9.6 million of the money will go into the city’s reserve funds or legally mandated escrow accounts. The city’s rainy-day fund balance is now a record $1.75 billion, up from $900 million four years ago. Mayor Vincent Gray has made replenishing the reserve fund a priority of his administration.

“I’m proud to announce today the complete turnaround of the district’s finances,” said Gray, a Democrat who is seeking re-election.

The district has had 17 consecutive balanced budgets, dating back to the mid-1990s, when the city was bankrupt and Congress took over its day-to-day operations.

Jeffrey DeWitt, the city’s new chief financial officer who previously held the same position in Phoenix, said he took great pleasure in reviewing the financial statements.

“No matter how you look at it, the numbers in the district are excellent,” DeWitt said. “It’s an exciting read.”

Much of the higher-than-expected revenues came from property taxes, reflecting a booming real estate market. The city, which is gaining more than 1,000 new residents a month, also collected more personal income taxes than expected.

Gray would not rule out the possibility of tax cuts given the city’s upward trajectory, but he did not commit to specifics. He also announced that he has struck a deal with Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie to devote 50 percent of future surpluses to affordable housing.

The city’s current budget is $12.1 billion, and Gray will submit a budget for the upcoming fiscal year in April.

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