District of Columbia officials threatened yesterday to make drastic cuts in city services -- including sharp reductions in fire and police protection and the complete elimination of street cleaning -- if Congress does not restore a $33 million reduction on the federal payment.
As part of Mayor Marion Barry's plan to avoid a potential budget deficit estimated at more than $170 million, the city had requested a $61.8 million supplemental payment from Congress. The House Approprations Committee approved only $28.8 million this week.
At a morning press conference yesterday, City Administrator Elijah B. Rogers said that if the Senate does not restore the funds, firefighting forces would be cut by 30 percent, with 15 of the city's 51 fire companies shut down.
He also said that unspecified cuts would be made in the police department, and that the department's "ability to respond to emergency calls would be seriously affected."
Rogers also threatened to eliminate all street cleaning, and investigate the possibility of reducing trash collection to once a week.
Rogers insisted that the threatened cutbacks were not a saber-rattling attempt to shock Congress into approving the full request.
"We are simply explaining to the public the impact of the House [committee] action," Rogers said. "We simply cannot expend monies we don't have."
Flanked by the grim-faced directors of the city's agencies, Rogers detailed a host of other potential cutbacks.
All general public assistance payments to about 7,000 District residents would be cut off, he said. Patient services at D.C. General Hospital would be "drastically reduced" by a reduction of 40 staff positions.
The D.C. public library would suspend all book purchases, Rogers said, while the Superior Court would run out of money to pay jurors and might have to postpone late summer trials until October, the beginning of the next fiscal year.
In addition, Rogers said, the city's tax collection mechanism would be slowed by a lack of funds, thus deepening the fiscal crisis because of uncollected tax revenues.
"Our agencies will not be able to guarantee that reasonable levels of safety, sanitation or care for the needy will be maintained," Rogers said. "We will not be able to maintain a balanced and reasonable government under these conditions."
The payment is the federal government's annual allocation to the government to compensate for the loss of revenues from tax exempt federal land, and to help meet the additional muncipal costs of being the nation's capital.
The money requested by Barry would be part of the District's $1.4 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. Congress has previously allocated $232.2 million.