The City Administrator: Understanding the Mayor’s Budget

It’s budget season in the District. Mayor Bowser released her FY2020-2024 budget proposal back in March. It is now with the DC Council which will vote on a final budget in late May.

On April 11, 2019, the Federal City Council was delighted to host several senior staff from the Bowser Administration to discuss the details of her budget. Since the days of the Control Board in the 1990s, the FC2 has made the city’s fiscal health a top priority.

Headlining the event were Rashad Young, the DC City Administrator, and Jenny Reed, the Director of the Office of Budget and Performance Management. Also in attendance were Beverly Perry, Senior Advisor to the Mayor, and Brian Kenner, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.

Mr. Young began by emphasizing that the Mayor’s budget is indeed balanced. It has to be—by law—and for four years out. Plus DC’s Chief Financial Officer, who is independent from the Mayor and the Council, must certify that the budget is balanced. The city has an excellent audit record and is one of the rare cities to have a AAa credit rating from Moody’s.

One of the more controversial aspects of the Mayor’s budget is its growth in expenditures, which is set to expand faster than the economy. The expenditures will in large part be financed by a tax hike on the commercial property sector. Anthony Williams, on behalf of many FC2 members, asked about the prudence of these tax hikes since there are signs of weakness in the commercial property market. Yesim Taylor, Executive Director of the DC Policy Center, also pointed out that using one-time tax hikes on certain sectors to plug annual programmatic budget gaps is not very thoughtful tax policy.

The Mayor’s budget lines up with her #Fairshot priorities. The Circulator will be free and an additional line added to serve Ward 7. There’s new money for workforce housing. FC2 Trustees Tom Gallagher and Charlene Drew Jarvis both emphasized the importance of having connected communities, which include housing, services and amenities.