The District government, struggling to make ends meet, sold $300 million worth of short-term bonds yesterday to raise funds and to cover some of its overdue bills, including a July payment to Metro.
The city also was expected to repay a $264 million short-term debt due today with money held in escrow and to make an overdue $55 million payment to the D.C. retirement board, the pension fund for city employees.
But because of uncertainty about when the city will receive its annual federal payment, even the new infusion of borrowed cash won't be sufficient to pay all the city's bills immediately, D.C. officials said.
Robert Pohlman, deputy mayor for finance, said yesterday that as soon as the city receives the proceeds from the bond sale on Tuesday, the city will make the $19.8 million payment to the Metro system that was due in July.
Another Metro payment for more than $29 million is due Monday, but Pohlman said the city is unable to fully meet that commitment until it receives the full $430 million federal payment for the fiscal year that begins Monday.
A delay in receiving that payment appears likely because of a deadlock between the White House and Congress over a budget and deficit reduction plan for the coming year. If no agreement is reached by Monday, the city also faces the threat of sequestration -- automatic spending cuts -- under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction law.
If the automatic cuts are imposed, the city would lose $161 million in federal funds used for general operating expenses, plus about $27 million in specialized funds such as payments for water and sewer, the federal contribution to the pension plan and money for the construction of the new correctional treatment facility, officials said.
If Congress adopts a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government going until the budget dispute is resolved, the city will pay Metro proportionately, Pohlman said. If the city gets one month's share of the federal payment, it will pay Metro for one of three months due, he said.
But if federal negotiators fail to reach an agreement on budget cuts and automatic budget cuts are imposed, Pohlman said he doesn't know exactly what would happen.
Sequestration would be catastrophic for the city's continuing cash flow troubles, according to budget officials.
In addition to the cut in the federal payment, the District would be hit especially hard in the loss of federal grant money.
An analysis by a local consulting company, Fiscal Planning Services Inc., of 425 federal grant programs, including those that go directly to state and local governments and those that go to independent and charitable groups, shows that the District would lose $238 million if full sequestration occurs.
Stuart Rabinowitz, president of Fiscal Planning, said that examples of grant programs that would be cut include community health centers, enforcement of child support payments, airport improvements and road building.
Because District residents receive back more than $5 in grants for every $1 in federal taxes paid, they would be second-hardest hit in the per-capita reductions, Rabinowitz said, at $393. Only residents of Alaska, at $410 per capita, would be harder hit.
In contrast, Maryland residents would lose $152 per capita in federal grants -- 20th among the 50 states, the District and Puerto Rico -- or a total of $715 million. Virginia residents would lose $109 per capita, or a total of $659 million, ranking them 50th.
The District's bond sale yesterday attracted considerable investor interest, Pohlman said. He said more than $2 billion worth of offers was received for the $300 million bond issue, on which the city will pay an effective interest rate of 6.39 percent when the bonds are paid off at the end of the year.
"There was good competition for the bonds," Pohlman said. The bonds, known as tax revenue anticipation notes, are used to give the city a better cash flow until receipt of the federal payment and tax receipts.