For the second time in less than two weeks, Mayor Marion Barry has asked the City Council to increase the city's budget deficit by spending money the city does not have.
Yesterday, Barry asked council members to authorize the city's disability compensation program for city workers to spend an additional $2.1 million this fiscal year. In a letter accompanying the request, Barry admitted that the District does not really have the extra money.
"The additional obligations created by this action will have to be considered as a part of the . . . 1980 shortfall," Barry wrote.
Barry, who has stated repeatedly over the past few months that the city cannot spend money it does not have, said the extra money was needed because disability payments have risen with cost-of-living increases and medical costs have gone up.
Earlier yesterday, acting on another Barry request, the council grudgingly voted, 7 to 5, to grant preliminary appoval to the city court system to spend the $1.1 million needed to prevent sharply curtailed operations. The city does not have their money either, and the expenditure would compound the city's massive budget deficit.
Final council action is scheduled for today, and then Congress must give its approval.
The chief judges of the Superior Court and the D.C. Court of Appeals had testified before Congress and the City Council that they would run short of money for salaries and for jury and witness fees unless more money was provided.
Mayor Marion Barry, who had decided not to ask Congress for a supplement appropriation to keep the courts running on schedule recently asked the council to let the courts, spend the $1.1 million that he had barred the police department from spending under his program of budget contraints.
City budget director Gladys W. Mack told council members there is no money available to pay the court's bills when they came in so the $1.1 million will be added to the city's growing deficit. Barry plans to announce a program Monday to erase the deficit, possibly by borrowing more money.
Council members Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1) and John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2) led a chorus of criticism of Barry for shifting the congressionally granted spending authority although Clarke ultimately supported the funds for the courts, observing it was a "damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't" situation.
Kane and Wilson charged that despite repeated requests, Barry had failed to report to the council whether the belt-tightening program he announced last March actually has saved any money.
"Someday the council is going to have to use its subpoena power to get that information," Kane said.
Voting for the transfer of funds were: Clarke, Chairman Arrington Dixon, Willie J. Hardy (D-Ward 7), Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large), John Ray (D-At Large), Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8), and Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3). Voting against were: Kane, Wilson, Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), William Spaulding (D-Ward 5), and Nadine Winter (D-Ward 6.) Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-At Large) was absent, attending the Republican National Convention.
To provide the additional $2.1 million for the disability program, Barry asked the council to take $1.3 million in spending authority from the Department of Employment Services and $800,000 in authority from the Department of Recreation.
But the spending authority does not represent actual money; thus, spending the addional funds "exacerbates the already serious cash problems that the District faces," Barry wrote to the council.
As justification for the deficit spending, Barry cited a 20-percent increase in disability payment, tied to the Consumer Price Index and sharply increasing medical costs. Barry said the District is "obligated to pay the costs no matter how rapidly they escalate."