Fenty Proposes Bleak Budget for 2011

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    The DC government today joined a long line of other area governments that are wrestling with bleak budgets for the coming year.

    Mayor Adrian Fenty proposed a 2011 budget of almost $11 billion.

    The budget is balanced with about $500 million in government job reductions, service cuts and consolidation of some agencies. It also includes higher fees and fines but no general tax increase. 

    A total of about 375 government jobs would be cut, making it more than 2,000 jobs that have been eliminated over the past three years.

    The mayor’s proposal kicks off a 54-day review period by the council, in which significant changes could occur in this heavily political year. The mayor and half the 13-member council are up for reelection.

    The proposed local spending is 3 percent lower than the current year. Normally, city budgets grow by 4 to 6 percent.

    "These are tough economic times," Fenty said from the steps of the city government’s John A. Wilson building downtown. "We simply have to do more with less."

    The state governments of Virginia and Maryland, as well as surrounding counties like Fairfax and Montgomery, also are dealing with significant budget reductions. 

    In one bright spot, the mayor increased funding for city schools and charter programs. Education and reforms under Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee are expected to be prominent issues in this year's elections.

    The mayor also included new money for city libraries and new funds to improve radio communications for emergency first responders.

    The mayor once again proposed an ambitious summer jobs program for 21,000 young people next summer, but only allotted $23 million dollars, just over $1,000 per job. In the past that amount has been too low and the programs has run into cost overruns.

    To "maximize efficiency," the mayor's plan calls for freezing automatic pay increases for city workers and negotiating service contracts with the city's 10 biggest private vendors. It was unclear how many city workers would be affected by the pay freeze.

    In addition, some city workers would no longer receive free or subsidized parking, saving the District $200,000 per year.

    The D.C. Police Department would upgrade from old-fashioned pagers to new digital communications, saving about $500,000.

    Hospitals are worried about a proposed 1 percent fee that would be charged for both inpatient and outpatient services, a fee the hospital association says amounts to a tax increase.

    Fenty proposes no general tax increase, keeping a pledge he first made in 2006. However, Fenty indicated he would not oppose tax increases if they come from the D.C. Council. Some council members see that as a slight of hand by the mayor. One said the mayor wanted to make the council "the bad guy" during the upcoming political campaigns.

    In addition the budget cuts in the new budget for 2011, the mayor also proposed about $300 million in cuts to the city's current budget to keep it balanced.  There are few if any service cuts in that proposal, aides said.