A new congressional report has reaffirmed that the cost of running the District of Columbia government is far higher per capita than the 18 other American cities of comparable size.
The District's cost of providing city, county and state services was at least $2,203 for each of more than 700,000 residents in 1974-75, compared with an average of $1,320 for all the other sities with populations between 500,000 and 1 million.
Comparable costs in the other cities ranged from $947 in Indianapolis to $1.755 in San Francisco.
The report, prepared by the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, showed the District with the highest costs of all the cities for police and fire protection, sanitation and sewage services and its prison highest in its public school expenditures.
While the report draws no specific conclusions and makes no recommendations, it seems sure to figure heavily in current and future deliberations by Congress over the District's $1.3-billion-plus annual budgets. Despite home rule. Congress has kept the power to regulate city spending.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D. Vt.), chairman of the Senate District Appropriations Subcommittee, which released the report last night, said it indicates the city may be overfunded and that the overall level of the city government's efficiency seems poor.
A press release said Leahy "would be looking very closely at those functional areas that compared least favorably (in costs) with the other cities."
Leahy, a self-described fiscal conservative serving his first year as the subcommittee's chairman, was instrumental in that unit's decision Friday to reject the District's proposal to build a $110 million convention centerand to cut the city's request for a $300 million federal payment for 1978 to $276 million. The federal payment compensates the city for taxes it cannot collect on government-owned property.
Comer S. Coppie, the District's budget director, acknowledged the high level of costs, but contended that it would be "superficial and invalid" to accept the report's findings without detailed additional study.
Although the report seeks to adjust the figures to reflect combined municipal, county and state expenditures in all the cities, this cannot measure the intensity of some problems faced by the District as a totally urbanized core city, Coppie said.
Coppie also said it cannot measure the effect of some political decisions, such as the one to maintain an unusually large police department to curb crime - which it has done effectively, he added.
The new report is a refined version of one released by Leahy last May and attacked by some city officials as unfair. One complaint was that the report loaded the entire costs of building the regional Metro subway system statisfically on the District, ignoring the suburban role.
Prepared by Lillian Rymarowicz, a staff economics analyst for the Congressional Research Service, and based chiefly on U.S. census data, the new report tallies District expenditures in numerous ways - apparently to blunt any renewed contentions that it is incomplete or distorted.
But the bottom line remains pretty much the same as in the May report: the District is a city with usually high govenrmental costs, although it is not the costliest in every category of operations.
The expense of building Metro, when averaged over the whole metropolitan area, does help increase the District's spending for public ulities activities about $140 a year per capita above the average for the other 18 cities.
But that $140 is only a fraction of the $1,100 average higher cost of running the District government as compared with the other 18 cities.
Here is how Washington stacks up with the other 18 cities in various fields of government activities:
Public schools - Average for the 18 other cities, $258; D.C., $385; highest San Jose, Calif., $401; lowest, St. Louis; $193.
Higher education - Average, $108; D.C., $68; highest, Seattle, $155; lowest, Boston, $62.
Public welfare> health and hospitals - AVerage, $149; D.C., $498; highest, Boston, $534; lowest, Phoenix, $120.
Police and fire protection - Average, $95; D.C., highest, $176; lowest, San Antonio, $51.
Sanitation and sewage - Average, $47, D.C., highest, $93; lowest, San Jose, $22.
Transportation (excluding mass transit) - Average, 124; D.C., $73; highest, San Francisco, $205; lowest, San Diego, $69.
Housing and urban renewal - Average, $15; D.C., $27; highest, Boston, $50; lowest, S.T. Louis, 44 cents.
Local parks and recreation - Average, $31; D.C, $30; highest, Seattle, $63; lowest, St. Louis, $3.
Correction (jails and prisons) - AVerage, $21; D.C., highest, $100; lowest, San Antonia, $10.
All other (including mass transit and city administration) - Average, $215; D.C., highest, $401; lowest, San Antonio, $112.
Coppie, who was given an advance copy of the report, said the District police costs result from the decision to maintain a large force; the school costs result in part from the fact that fewer D.C. children attend private or parochial schools; the sanitation expenditures result from services provided for (and reimbursed by) the federal government and the suburbs, and the higher standards for sewage treatment at the Blue Plains plant, and welfare from the unusually heavy concentration of povery-level families here. Moreover, the District is the only city to maintain a complete prison system.
Another section of the report noted that District employees rank near the top in their earnings, although some cities - notably in California - pay higher salaries.
The report also pointed out that the District benefits substantially from various programs supported financially by the federal governmment that provide services here.
It set that figure very tentatively at $86.4 million and included such items as National Capital Parks, Howard University, St. Elizabeths Hospital and two Washington airports, Dulles and National.