Members of the D.C. City Council agreed informally yesterday to increase funding for the District school system by $14 million above what Mayor Marion Barry proposed for fiscal 1987, bringing the total close to the amount requested by the Board of Education.
During a closed-door meeting, council members also agreed to add $2 million to the budget for repairs of public housing, $1.3 million for the University of the District of Columbia if it acquires the Antioch Law School, and $8.7 million to reduce the accumulated general fund deficit, according to City Council Chairman David A. Clarke.
The additions would be funded in part with a one-time increase in tax revenues expected from a tax amnesty proposal to waive penalties for delinquents who voluntarily pay back taxes. The rest would come from $2.6 million in cuts in other agencies and $3.4 million in borrowing.
Under the agreement, to be recommended officially at a council meeting next week, the school system would get a total of $391.3 million in operating funds, Clarke said. The council proposal compares with a school board request of $396.2 million and the mayor's recommended figure of $380.7 million.
The council members also would add $3.4 million to the mayor's proposed schools capital improvements budget of $58 million, which was the level requested by the school board as well.
School board President R. David Hall commended the council for trying to meet the school system's needs but said some school advocates will be "disappointed" that they did not get the entire amount requested.
Some proponents of the school system's funding request questioned the use of $8 million in tax amnesty money to fund the increase, because these would be available for one year only and would not be included in the school system's base operating budget.
Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools, an advocacy group that has been lobbying the council strongly for the school board's request, plans to meet with Barry today to give him petitions with 40,000 to 50,000 names supporting that level, said the group's counsel, Rod Boggs. On Monday, the group had sponsored a rally in front of the District Building attended by 3,000 chanting students, parents and school officials.
"While we welcome the City Council's efforts to find more money, unless they are prepared to find all of it, we still need to look to the mayor," Boggs said.
Clarke said the council also plans to give the school system its own contracting authority, in response to school board complaints of inefficiency and mismanagement by the D.C. Department of Public Works in awarding contracts for school repairs.
"This year is a special year because of the physical problems of the buildings . . . . It the additional money is not something they are going to need every year," Clarke said.
Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) had proposed giving the school system the entire $16 million addition it wanted and paying for the increase by making across-the-board reductions in all other agencies. Jarvis said yesterday after the agreement was reached that she is "satisfied there has been a legitimate effort to fully fund the school system."
The council members also discussed how to deal with expected deep cuts in funding from the federal government under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction law. Clarke said the council expects a $38 million federal funding cut in fiscal 1987 and has found about $25 million of "flexibility" in the budget.