Natwar Gandhi’s final gift: Millions in new revenue

December 20, 2013

Gandhi goes out on a high note, fiscally speaking. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi issued his final set of District government revenue estimates Friday, less than two weeks before he hands the city’s fiscal reins over to successor Jeffrey S. DeWitt.

Gandhi’s parting gift includes $19.8 million in additional funds in the current fiscal year and $42.7 million additional for the next. Mayor Vincent C. Gray is set to deliver his fiscal 2015 budget to the D.C. Council in early April.

The upgrades, Gandhi wrote in a letter to city officials, is due to a stronger-than-expected real estate market, leading to higher property assessments and hence higher property tax revenues, as well as income tax collections swelled by higher capital-gains collections driven by the stock market. Sales tax revenues, however, are expected to lag prior projections.

What does the additional money mean? The current-year revenues could be used to pay for the new trash cans and other priorities Gray proposed earlier this month but were rejected by the council this week. But that would require Gray sending the council a supplemental budget request, which is unlikely to happen until April. The additional revenue for 2015 in more intriguing, especially in light of new recommendations from the D.C. Tax Revision Commission that, if adopted in total, would cost an additional $30.8 million.

Though Gandhi is parting on a positive note, revenue-wise, he stuck some warnings in his letter: Job growth is slowing in the city, thanks in no small part to federal cutbacks. New private-sector jobs have “recently been barely able to offset the public sector decline,” he wrote. And fewer D.C. residents are now employed than a year ago — “a recent and distressing development and seems somewhat at odds with continued population growth.”

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 · December 20, 2013