A Supplemental Proposal to Mayor Gray’s FY 2012 Supplemental Budget: Use the FY 2011 Surplus to Repay DC Employees and Use FY 2012 Money for Affordable Housing
District Dime readers certainly know that next year’s budget process is in full swing, but do you also know that Mayor Gray and the DC Council right now are considering significant changes to the budget for the current fiscal year? At the end of last month, Mayor Gray sent what is called a “supplemental budget” for Fiscal Year 2012 to the DC Council because the District ended up with nearly $80 million more in its coffers for the current year. Much like the full-year budget proposals, Mayor Gray’s FY 2012 supplemental proposal should be thoroughly vetted by the Council to make sure that we are using our resources most effectively and leveraging this unexpected boost by putting money toward critical programs.
One way to do that is to refine a proposal in the supplemental regarding repayment of furloughs. Mayor Gray is proposing to use $20 million of the FY 2012 revenue surplus to restore pay to DC government employees who were required to take four days of unpaid leave to help close an at-the-time estimated $180 million budget shortfall in Fiscal Year 2011. Yet when auditors closed the books, we found out that the District ended up with a $240 million surplus for Fiscal Year 2011. A sensible approach would be to use $20 million of Fiscal Year 2011’s $240 million surplus to refund the furlough, given the circumstances. However, Mayor Gray has chosen to use Fiscal Year 2012 money to do that. DCFPI urges the Council to have a Fiscal Year 2011 reimbursement paid with the Fiscal Year 2011 surplus.
This sensible approach could free up a critical $20 million in FY 2012 revenue that could be used to solve a major issue facing DC right now — lack of funds for affordable housing. Attendees at Mayor Gray’s citizen summit ranked affordable housing as the number one concern facing District residents. Yet DC’s Housing Production Trust Fund—the District’s main mechanism to build affordable units—has seen severe cuts in recent years, including an $18 million cut in FY 2012 and a proposed $20 million cut in FY 2013. The lack of investment in affordable housing has led to serious consequences. Because of a lack of affordable housing options, many homeless families are getting stuck in more costly motels or are placed on waitlists which are not good for the families or DC.
Tomorrow afternoon, Mayor Gray will meet with the DC Council to discuss his supplemental budget proposal. With $240 million in surplus funds in FY 2011 that haven’t been utilized, Mayor Gray and the Council could use just eight percent of those funds to re-pay DC employees for the furlough days they took. That could free up $20 million in funds this year that could help move homeless families out of shelters and the streets and into more stable housing. It could also help invest the production of new affordable housing units and address a serious issue facing the District.