The District of Columbia will begin its 1979 fiscal year Sunday with a $1.3 billion operating budget that bears a heavy imprint from an economy-minded Congress.
The budget provides for a new parking ticket enforcement system while maintaining most city services at their present levels. It includes funds for more vote-counting equipment to improve election procedures. And a $77.5 million construction program includes a major renovation of Eastern High School.
When the proposed spending program was announced by Mayor Walter E. Washington on Sept. 12, 1977, it anticipated a 23 percent increase in revenue from real estate taxes over a two-year period and a record-high federal payment to the city of $317 million.
As the budget, signed by President Carter last week, emerged from Congress it contained a lower yield from real estate taxes because of a new tax relief law passed recently by the D.C. City Council.
The budget also contains a federal payment of $235 million, which is below this year's figure of $276 million, representing the first time since 1956 that Congress has provided a payment lower than the previous fiscal year.
By coincidence, on the same the president signed the 1979 budget bill, the mayor submitted his proposed 1980 budget to the council. It totals $1.4 billion, contains no tax increases or significant new programs and seeks a federal payment of $317 million.
When he signed the budget bill, Carter issued a statement urging that a formula be devised that would automatically establish the federal payment each year, without the need for congressional approval.
City budget officials have long sought such a formula, which would let them predict city income.
Sterling Tucker, the outgoing council chairman, criticized the present system at a council meeting Monday. He said Congress penalizes the city for collecting additional tax revenues by cutting the federal payment, dollar for dollar.
"Congress can take it out of the federal payment without appearing to deprive the city of any public services," Tucker said.
At the urging of Marion Barry (D-At Large), who defeated Tucker and Washington for the Democratic mayoral nomination, the council adopted a resolution last week asking that the federal payment be doubled.
The payment is intended to compensate for tax exemptions on federal property and other costs to the city resulting from the U.S. government's presence here.
When Mayor Washington proposed the 1979 budget to the council, which amended the proposal before sending it to Congress, the mayor portrayed the document as a hold-the-line spending guide, with few new programs.
Congress trimmed some proposed budget increases, bringing the approved operating funds down to nearly $29 million less than the mayor's proposal. The final, approved total was $1,285,102,700.
When other federal grants and payments from various U.S. programs are added to that total, the city's actual expenditure are expected to top $1.7 billion.
One new program that survived the congressional review is a new civilian parking enforcement and adjudication program, now being organized. The city expects the program to add $20 million to municipal revenues in the form of increased fines for parking violations.
Another program, relatively minor in money terms but noteworthy because of the problems experiences in the Sept. 12 primary, is $650,000 to buy ballot-counting equipment for each city precinct.
The biggest single cut by Congress was $10 million the House eliminated from the police and firefighters' disability retirement fund. The decision was intended to prod the city into tightening liberal rules that have been blamed for widespread abuse.
The city already has anounced that it will seek to recover the $10 million in the 1980 budget.
The Senate gave the city a $1.8-million appropriation it didn't officially request. The funds, sought by the school board but denied by the mayor and council, are earmarked for improved maintenance of city school buildings.
The Senate refused to provide funds for several new city offices, including the Minority Business Opportunity Commission, the Boxing and Wrestling Commission, the Commission of Healing Arts (medical) Licensure and the Educational Institution Licensure Commission, which oversees private institutions.
It also clamped down on the City Cuncil CETA jobs program, barring the assignment of anybody paid from U.S. Comprehensive Employment and Training Acts funds from working directly for council members or on council committee staffs.
In its official report on the budget, mainly the work of Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the Senate D.C. Appropriations Subcommittee scolded the city for the recent proliferation of new municipal agencies and other city operations. The report also called for periodic reports from city departments.
The comments covered such areas as rising transit subsidies, alleged over-staffing of city offices, a lack of progress in finding alternatives to jailing law violators, delays in collecting overdue water bills and even charges that workers at the city dog pound were rude to the public.
This peppering of critical comments led one high-ranking city official to comment anonymously that the Senate report was a "meddlesome" document that runs contrary to the philosophy of home rule.
On paper, Congress seemed to slash the city's proposal capital outlay (construction) program from the proposed $129.8 million to an approved $77.5 million. However, the bulk of the cuts was for funds that had been sought to start building the downtown civic center, which will not be needed until fiscal 1980.
Among projects that will proceed are the modernization of Eastern High School at a cost of $11 million, improvements at Ellington School for the Performing Arts (the former Western High School) and at M.M. Washington vocational education center.
Other approved projects include an addition to the First District police station at 415 Fourth St. SW, improvements to cost $3.3 million at the Forest Haven home for the retarded and at D.C. Village and the elimination of fire hazards in the 70-year-old District Building at a cost of $750,000.