Two for Two: A Supplemental Package that Includes Two Furlough Days and Money for Affordable Housing Would Be A Win-Win for the District
Tomorrow the DC Council will take a very important vote on the budget. Not next year’s budget—the Council is still considering Mayor Gray’s fiscal year 2013 proposal and will take a first vote on that May 15th—but the current year’s budget. As District Dime readers know, DC’s revenue projections for the current year have grown $79 million since last fall, and Mayor Gray has submitted a supplemental budget to use that money now.
DCFPI urges the Council to tweak Gray’s proposal and pass an alternative supplemental proposal that could be a win-win for DC: Repaying DC government employees for two of the furlough days from last year — rather than repaying all four furlough days as the mayor has proposed— and putting the remaining FY 2012 dollars toward a fund that helps keep housing affordable in DC, the Housing Production Trust Fund.
Mayor Gray is quite aware that affordable housing is a dire need for our city; indeed, affordable housing ranked as the number one concern among residents who attended the mayor’s One City Summit in February. It’s also true that District workers went without pay for four days in 2011 to help close a projected gap in that year’s budget. That gap actually turned into a surplus when auditors closed the books on fiscal year 2011. That’s why DCFPI argued that if Mayor Gray wanted to repay DC employees, he should do so with the 2011 surplus, the year in which the furloughs were taken. We still support that approach, although it seems unlikely at this point to have enough support to pass.
It’s likely that another proposal, a compromise of sorts, will be presented tomorrow and DCFPI supports this as good public policy that will help move our city forward. The amendment would repay DC workers for two days of the furlough and put the rest of the money toward critical needs, most particularly the Housing Production Trust Fund. Since both DC workers and the trust fund took big cuts to make the fiscal year 2011 budget balance, it’s appropriate to use this additional money in FY 2012 to both give a boost to our public employees and to our stock of what seems like an ever-shrinking supply of reasonably priced housing in the city.
Just exactly how much money that would amount to is a bit in question. Late last week, District Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi reduced by $2.4 million the current spending pressure on DC public charter schools.
Several councilmembers have expressed the desire to make funding decisions that build toward a better future for DC and its residents. Approving a supplemental that helps keep the District affordable to low-and moderate income residents—such as hard-working DC government employees—would do exactly that. DCFPI hopes the Council will pass a supplemental budget that includes money for the Housing Production Trust Fund tomorrow.