This year, the 70-day budget deliberation process will start later, due to what D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson called D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser鈥檚 delay in submitting the budget to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. (Courtesy Photo)

In the days leading up to April 3, when Fiscal Year 2025 budget deliberations are expected to start, District residents continue to question what will become of essential services and safety nets they depend on to stay afloat in an expensive city. 

Southeast resident and community organizer Charnal Chaney said the people living in her community need such investments at a time when she鈥檚 starting to see some positive changes. 

Chaney, founder of , is part of a group helping high school students launch a business cooperative. Along the way, she continues to encounter underlying problems that jeopardize the youths鈥 collective success. 

One example Chaney gave involved some young people who live in dilapidated, mold-infested homes. She also mentioned instances where she and her colleagues had to help parents pay utility bills after they couldn鈥檛 access emergency rental assistance. 

In those situations, Chaney has relied on an ever-expanding grassroots mutual aid network that pools resources for residents. She said that work has inspired people in her community to jump into advocacy work. 

Such results, Chaney said, could be multiplied once the D.C. government commits to expanding programs that have been proven to improve people鈥檚 quality of life and boost cooperative development. 

鈥淲e got people who want to step up and do more because they know their voice matters in this city,鈥 Chaney said. 鈥淏ut we need more money in the budget so people who navigate through [the system] can help more people. Things will improve. It鈥檚 just a matter of [elected officials] funding social programs.鈥 

Chairman Mendelson vs. D.C. Mayor Bowser vs. Chief Financial Officer Lee

This year, the 70-day budget deliberation process will start later, due to what D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson called D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser鈥檚 delay in submitting the budget to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO). 

Per a council resolution adopted this year, Bowser was required to submit the budget no later than March 20. In order to meet that deadline, she would have needed to get the budget to OCFO on March 10 — 10 days beforehand — so that it could be reviewed for financial and legal sufficiency. 

That didn鈥檛 happen, Mendelson said. During the D.C. Council鈥檚 March 19 Committee of the Whole meeting, he that he saw the signs of a delay earlier in the month as he inquired about the mayor鈥檚 progress. 

He went on to say that, by not following the proper steps to meet the March 20 deadline, Bowser disregarded the law. 

Another qualm that Mendelson expressed concerned mandate that Bowser dedicate $250 million of a more-than-$20 billion budget toward the replenishment of the District鈥檚 reserves. Mendelson noted that the law doesn鈥檛 require that reserves be replenished through direct appropriation. He went on to tell council colleagues the diversion of funds to the reserves would result in across-the-board budget cuts amounting to more than $1 billion.聽

This year, in addition to the replenishment of the city鈥檚 reserves, Bowser must deal with the renegotiation of collective bargaining agreements, closing Metro鈥檚 budget gap, funding pension and other post-employment benefits, and increasing human services expenditures. 

As the D.C. Council gears up to comb through Bowser鈥檚 budget proposal, Mendelson said he鈥檚 advising council members to restore funding to existing programs before looking at new programs. 

鈥淚 don鈥檛 know how disciplined members will be about that,鈥 he told The Informer. 

Mendelson said that he also wants to avoid raising taxes. If it鈥檚 to be done, he expressed his support for a balanced approach.

 鈥淚 would like to see our taxes be more equitable,鈥 Mendelson said. 鈥淭he way you do that is creating more tax brackets for tax saving to individuals. Lowering rates that affect middle-income folks and offset tax increases to the upper brackets.鈥 

Mayor Bowser Hints at Budget Priorities 

On March 12, the D.C. Tax Revision Commission released from a study that suggested that tax rate increases placed on high-income residents in 2021 didn鈥檛 compel them to leave the District. As a matter of fact, the commission said that low- and middle-income D.C. residents still remain the most likely to leave the District. 

Days later, Bowser told The Informer that resident engagement, along with public safety, and good government services, including the 911 call center counted among her greatest budget priorities. 

Bowser went on to say that all programs across the government would likely see some sort of reduction. She also pointed to old devices, D.C. government staff vacancies, and expensive leases as potential budget cuts. All the while, Bowser said she wanted to protect health programs and post-pandemic development of Downtown, D.C. 

On March 20, the day she was originally scheduled to present her budget to the D.C. Council, Bowser spoke before an audience of teachers and administrators at the Catholic University of America鈥檚 Pryzbyla University Center in Northeast during the High Impact Tutoring Summit.  

At that event, Bowser revealed education investments in her yet-to-be-released proposal, including $4.8 million to continue what was initially a federally-funded high-impact tutoring program. She also said she dedicated $5 million toward programming at the in Northeast, dual-enrollment expansion, and the Advanced Internship Program and Career Ready Internships. 

Another $17 million will go toward a new health clinic that provides health care services and training for ATC students, Bowser told teachers and administrators. Meanwhile, $600,000 would be allocated toward the launch of a new ATC at the Whitman-Walker Max Robinson Center in Southeast. 

Even in the midst of celebration, Bowser brought teachers and administrators back to reality. 

鈥淓ven with this increase, our schools will make tough decisions but know that education remains our top priority and it joins what leads to 老澳门开奖网鈥檚 success,鈥 Bowser said. 鈥淲e are the most important city in the world. People look to D.C. to follow what we鈥檙e doing. We have free Pre-K3 for everybody and the best teachers in the country.鈥 

Still More to Do, Says One Community Servant 

For the past seven years, Tafari Alkebulan has entered classrooms across the District as an instructor and mentor to young people of various backgrounds. In recent weeks, he made his way back to Southeast to make an impact in Eastover, one of D.C.鈥檚 most isolated and marginalized communities. . 

Alkebulan told The Informer that what he has seen in Eastover over the last few days further inspired his call for investments in classroom interventions, mentoring programs, and vocational education,especially for young people who aren鈥檛 college bound. 

He went further to suggest that the D.C. government invests in African-centered schools, which he described as better equipped to nurture young people culturally, socially and emotionally. 

In explaining his reasoning, Alkebulan said that the dollars spent on public education haven鈥檛 produced the immediate results needed for young people who attend schools east of the Anacostia River. 

鈥淭eachers and faculty are not even equipped to deal with this dysfunction,鈥 Alkebulan said. 鈥淲e really need more intervention programs that are not on paper and checking the box. We need things that bear fruit. Real trade schools and programs that are sustainable.鈥 

Sam P.K. Collins has nearly 20 years of journalism experience, a significant portion of which he gained at The 老澳门开奖网 Informer. On any given day, he can be found piecing together a story, conducting...

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