By Councilmember Charles Allen
The Council voted unanimously to approve the budget for the District of Columbia for the next fiscal year, $15.5 billion in total. It is the plan and allotment for every dollar the District will spend from October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020.
As your Ward 6 Councilmember, the budget is my chance to ensure neighborhood needs are funded, including those in Southwest. I want to thank everyone who attended my budget town hall last month at the Arthur Capper Community Center to share your priorities. As the Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, I also am responsible for setting the budget to ensure the District is a safe and a just city. I’ll share a few highlights from the Committee’s budget as well as Ward 6 project updates below.
First, a quick note: since DC government serves the functions of both a city and a state government, the budget looks much larger compared to other cities per capita. But only about $8.6 billion of the total are local funds (property tax, income tax, sales tax, etc), while the remainder is federal funding (Medicaid payments make up a large portion) and other special forms of revenue.
So what’s in the budget for Southwest? I’ll highlight a few specific funding items as well as some big picture, citywide items the Council prioritized.
Education: The Council increased the per-pupil student funding formula, which is the main way most of our schools are funded. It also increased funding for at-risk students, which is extra funding to assist schools serving students with greater needs. While the Council cannot steer money to specific schools, we can do our best to ensure that money reaches the students in classrooms that most need extra support. I introduced a bill earlier this year that would give principals at schools the decision on how to spend at-risk dollars instead of central office.
Amidon-Bowen: We dedicated capital funds to keep Ward 6 schools on-track for modernization and needed maintenance—that includes securing funding for much needed repairs inside Amidon-Bowen Elementary as well as a new playground for the school on the outside! You might remember in the budget a few years ago, I fought to speed up the modernization of Jefferson Middle School, which will resume classes in their new building in August, ahead of schedule. How time flies!
Southwest Library: While the funding for the modernization of the Southwest Library was already secured in past budgets, I continue to work to make sure the library will be ready on day one when it opens. That includes securing the funds to have a fully stocked library collection and increasing the security staffing. Additional funding is maintained to replace and upgrade the playground in front of the library, with both opening at the same time.
New Fire Ladder Trucks and Ambulances: We’re investing millions to upgrade our aging ladder trucks in the Fire Department–the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety funded five new ladder fire trucks, as well as new ambulances, and will hire additional first responders. The budget also provides funding to explore a new site for our Fire and EMS Fleet Maintenance Facility, currently located on Half Street SW. The department badly needs a modernized location and that site could serve as the needed space to build first in re-developing Greenleaf Gardens without displacing a single resident.
Expanding Early Childhood and Elementary Education: I hear constantly the frustration of not enough seats in the city’s Pre-K 3 and 4 programs. This budget adds capacity by building a new childcare center next to Miner Elementary and renovates the Joy Evans Field House to ensure Van Ness Elementary has space to continue growing. The budget also makes permanent a $1,000 tax credit toward childcare for families earning $150,000 or less.
Affordable Housing: The budget makes an increased investment in the Housing Production Trust Fund and increases the amount of money set aside for housing vouchers.
Senior Services: The budget locks in long-term, annual funding for the Safe At Home Program, which helps seniors outfit their homes with safety and quality of life improvements to allow them to age-in-place. Additionally, it funds a Senior Strategic Plan to help the District understand what senior needs are in each part of the city.
Public Safety: In my Committee, we tripled the investment in violence prevention funding, which has shown early signs of being very effective at preventing violent crime by working closely with those at-risk of committing or being the victim of a violent interaction. We also extended the Senior Police Officer program to allow MPD to retain the services of experienced detectives and sergeants who are set to retire.
Public Transit: The big ticket item of note is consistency. For the second straight year, this budget includes $178 million in dedicated funding to WMATA from the District, which you might remember is our portion of a deal struck with Maryland and Virginia to give our transit system a reliable revenue source.
Upgrades to Lansburgh Park: The budget also includes needed funding to complete upgrades at Lansburgh Park, which I funded in last year’s budget as well to upgrade lighting, seating, add a performance stage, and improve water fountains.
This is far from an exhaustive list of everything funded in the budget. Once again, I want to thank the many Ward 6 neighbors who spoke with me–your voice helps me and my team do our work. As always, I can be reached at email@example.com if you have questions or concerns.