March 21, 2013
THE DISTRICT
City bonds receive
improved rating

A Wall Street firm has upgraded its rating of some District bonds, handing city officials a modest reward for their financial management amid continuing federal budget uncertainty.

Standard & Poor’s upgraded the District’s general-obligation bonds Thursday from A+ to AA-, in line with the judgment of the other two major ratings firms. Moody’s and Fitch have rated the city’s “full faith and credit” debt at AA-equivalent levels since April 2010.

S&P said the upgrade reflected the District’s “improved financial position that has been strengthened by recent strong revenue performance as well as the rebuilding of reserves in accordance with . . . recently adopted new reserve policies.”

The District booked a $417 million surplus in fiscal 2012 — a sum that Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) has declined to spend, using it instead to build the city’s financial reserves to $1.6 billion.

— Mike DeBonis

College aid payments expected to resume

Congress has approved a short-term spending measure that will not only avert a government shutdown but will also end a freeze on college financial-aid payments for hundreds of District students.

The federally funded D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant program provides more than 6,000 high school graduates with $1,250 to $5,000 per semester to help pay for college.

Because of budget battles on Capitol Hill, DC TAG payments were halted Feb. 28. That left more than 1,300 students without their spring semester money, struggling to pay tuition and make ends meet.

The House on Thursday passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for six months. The Senate passed the same bill earlier this week.

It now heads to the White House for a signature from President Obama.

Assuming Obama signs the bill, as he is expected to do, DC TAG payments will resume beginning March 28, according to city officials who administer the program.

— Emma Brown

Thomas accomplices given probation

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced two accomplices of former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) to three months of probation. Marshall Banks, a former Howard University law professor, and James Garvin, the former golf pro at Langston Golf Course, must also jointly pay more than $392,000 in restitution with Thomas.

Banks and Garvin pleaded guilty in January 2012 to failing to report and concealing Thomas’s theft of city funds. The two men had worked with the Langston 21st Century Foundation, which Thomas used to take taxpayer money for his personal use.

In May, Thomas was sentenced to 38 months in prison for theft from federal programs and filing false tax returns.

— Ann E. Marimow

MARYLAND
2 shot in Aspen Hill
home invasion

A man and a girl were shot in a home invasion in Aspen Hill early Thursday, authorities said.

Montgomery County police said officers responded to a shooting just before 1 a.m. in the 13000 block of Freeland Road and found a man with a gunshot wound to his chest and a girl with a gunshot wound to the ankle.

The victims were taken to trauma centers with injuries that were not deemed life-threatening, authorities said. No arrests have been made.

— James Arkin

Man dies after being struck by school bus

A 55-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed by a Montgomery County school bus Thursday morning, officials said. There were no students on the bus at the time.

About 6:26 a.m., George Pezdirtz III was crossing Clopper Road just east of Metropolitan Grove Road when he was struck by the bus, which was westbound on Clopper Road, police said. The bus driver remained on the scene.

— Dan Morse

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