Gray: $417 million D.C. surplus will stay in bank

January 29, 2013

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is likely to propose new spending if current-year revenues are upgraded. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Mayor Vincent C. Gray will keep a $417 million budget surplus in the District government’s savings account, building the city’s reserves to $1.5 billion — the highest level since 2005 and the second highest total since the city gained limited independence from Congress.

With the exception of property taxes, every major District revenue source outperformed projections, adding $300 million in locally generated tax dollars, according to a Tuesday briefing from mayoral aides and finance officials. Business taxes brought in $78 million more than anticipated, while sales taxes did $68 million better and estate taxes did $53 million better.

In total, the District revenues came in 2 percent higher than anticipated. Traffic fines, including those from automated cameras, added $27 million more to city coffers than expected.

Also, city agencies underspent their 2012 budgets by a combined $117 million. The District’s child welfare agency, for instance, served fewer children than anticipated and thus spent $3.2 million less than expected.

Despite the windfall, mayoral officials said they do not anticipate proposing any new spending until Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi issues new revenue projections in February for the current and upcoming fiscal years. The surplus will remain untouched, Gray administration officials said: “None of it is up for grabs,” one senior official said.

Mayoral officials are confident Gandhi will upgrade revenues in the coming weeks, citing strong ongoing cash collections, but the CFO has been reticent in the past year to revise revenues upward while the federal budget situation remains unsettled. Should new revenues be revised upward, the Gray administration anticipates making “major critical investments” in affordable housing, public safety and the raises for the District workforce.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · January 29, 2013