D.C. Mayor Fenty counts on fee revenue to close gap

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 9, 2010

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's proposed budget for fiscal 2011 relies on at least $72 million in new and increased fees and penalties as part of an effort to close a $523 million shortfall.

The budget, which Fenty (D) submitted to the D.C. Council last week, proposes dozens of new fees. Parents trying to enroll children in special education programs, for instance, would be charged if they wanted hearing transcripts. And groups would have to pay to hold meetings in the historic Charles Sumner School, at 17th and M streets NW.

At the same time, Fenty is looking to boost the city's income from established revenue sources. His budget would raise residential and metered parking fees to generate $4.8 million.

In response to attempts to reach city officials, Fenty spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said Thursday that the city administrator, Neil O. Albert, was not available to comment.

"The proposed 2011 budget allows the Administration to maximize efficiency by streamlining agency operations, controlling spending and eliminating vacant and redundant positions," she said in a statement.

But Fenty and his opponents in this year's mayoral race, including D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), can expect to hear the ire of residents on the campaign trail.

"Charging for use of the Sumner School is akin to charging patrons to use the public library, or students to attend the public schools," Parisa Norouzi, director of Empower DC, an advocacy group for low- and moderate-income residents and a government watchdog, wrote in an e-mail.

Special education advocate Doreen Hodges said in an interview that parents are already juggling the needs of their children and that under Fenty's budget, they would also have to worry about fees for transcripts, which are often helpful in the application process.

"There's no profit in this," Hodges said. "What is the purpose of charging for something like that?"

The operating budget calls for $5.3 billion in local funds, and it grows to $8.9 billion with federal funds. With capital projects, total spending would rise to $11 billion.

Fenty is seeking to raise more than $28 million by increasing fines for 71 traffic violations, including running a red light and speeding.

John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said he attended an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting in Ward 4 Tuesday night and that residents complained of a recent barrage in parking tickets.

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