The D.C. City Council, which has a staff of 130 to serve its 13 members, asked Congress yesterday for more than $400,000 so it can hire 18 more people to keep up with a growing work load.
The request, voiced by Council Chairman Arrington Dixon at a House hearing on next year's city budget, comes at a time when Mayor Marion Barry has ordered a reduction of 1,223 employes by city agencies to ease the city's severe financial crunch.
Rep. Julian C. Dixion (D-Calif.), who took over this week as chairman of the House District Approporiations subcommittee, was skeptical of the Council chairman's request.
"If you can take the political heat for that, I guess I will leave that request alone" and not reject it, Rep. Dixon told his unrelated namesake. "If I were just reading about it in a newspaper, I would raise questions about it," Rep. Dixon said.
The Council hopes to add $423,500 to its payroll, bringing it to a total of nearly $3.5 million in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. The proposal was adopted by a Council vote last fall, before disclosures that the city faces a deficit the year as high as $172 million and a likely continuation of the crisis into next year.
The Washington Post reported recently that the D.C. City Council has more than twice the 50 staff members who serve the 11-member city-county governing board in San Francisco, which has about the same population as Washington. However, Arrington Dixon noted yesterday that the D.C. Council -- unlike councils in other cities -- drafts and acts upon complex laws comparable to those enacted by state legislatures.
Two of the 18 new Council employes would be grade 13, which has a salary range from $29,375 to $38,186. One would serve as a lawyer on the criminal code revision staff and the other would be a legislative assistant to the Council chairman, who already has an executive assistant, administrative assistant and a special assistant. Eight of the new employes would be assigned as administrative assistants to Council committees and the others would have varying assignments.
Arrington Dixon said in his testimony that the additional employes would not really be new but would "basically replace losses that we have suffered" when 30 federally subsidized workers under the CETA (Comprehensive Employment Training Act) program were terminated last year.
Later in the hearing, Rep. Dixon questioned whether Barry should have permitted Guy Draper to serve as the volunteer unpaid acting chief of protocol for the city early last year.
Draper who has been reported in line to become the Council chairman's executive assistant, was dropped from the protocol post in January after submitting a report on the proposed creation of a permanent protocol office.
The city paid Draper $12,500 for the report under a contract that initially was not publicly disclosed.
"It is my understanding Mr. Draper was in the public relations business," Rep. Dixon said to Dwight S. Cropp, Barry's executive secretary.
"Yes, he was -- still is," Cropp replied.
"It would be enhancing his own reputation by calling on (embassies)" with the D.C. protocol officer title, Dixon said.
In a related matter, the City Council approved -- with only minor changes -- Barry's request to Congress for a supplemental appropriation this year. It would be financed by a $61.8 million additional federal payment to the city. That would bring the payment for the year up to the authorized total of $300 million.
The Council dropped from the mayor's request $4.4 million to pay increased gasoline and heating fuel costs in the Human Services and Corrections departments and the University of the District of Columbia.
The Council then shifted those fuel funds to the operating budgets of the Corrections and Human Services agencies.
Council member David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), who examined fuel costs and calculated that the agencies could get by with less money, sponsored the amendments along with Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3).
Clarke said shifting $3.1 million into General Public Assistance payments for disabled persons would eliminate the need for the mayor to impose an absolute six-month limit on participation in the program. That limit would cut off funds for 4,200 of the 6,700 new receiving benefits, city officials estimated.
Clarke said that plowing $1.3 million of the requested fuel money into Corrections might avoid some of the 360 layoffs the mayor has proposed for the department.
City Budget Director Gladys W. Mack said she would study Clarke's amendments to determine their precise effects.
Despite its loud protestations in recent weeks of wanting to get more involved in the budget process, the council made no other changes in the supplemental request proposed by Barry except to earmark $4.2 million to cover salary increases in the public schools. That money already had been included in a citywide salary package proposed by the mayor.
Major components of the supplemental request include $21 million for city employe pensions, $11 million for Human Services, and $6.7 million for public safety agencies.
Once signed by the mayor, the council measure sends the fund request to the federal Office of Management and Budget with a city request that it be forwarded to Congress.