Mayor Marion Barry yesterday unveiled a $1.76-billion budget for 1983 that reverses two years of fiscal austerity by proposing $180 million in spending increases for jobs, housing, programs for the elderly and a wide range of other District projects.
In proposing a budget that is 11 percent higher than that for the current fiscal year, Barry kept his pre-election year pledge not to raise property or income tax rates.
But the budget contains proposals for a 32 percent increase in the city's average charge for water and sewer service, increased automobile and permit fees and a new method of taxing utility firms that the firms claim would mean higher rates for consumers.
The mayor is counting on inflation and a 12 percent increase in real estate values to boost tax revenues by $130 million over current levels without tax-rate increases. A 12-percent assessment increase would raise the property tax bill of the owner of an $89,000 home by $117, to $1,093.
This represents a moderation in rising property values compared with 1982 assessments that showed an average increase of 18 percent.
Barry's proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 also assumes the District will collect $26 million in revenues from city-run gambling that was approved by city voters in the fall of 1980 and is scheduled to begin this year with an an instant lottery.
In presenting the budget, the mayor said his administration was well on the road to placing city government on more solid fiscal footing, while increasing spending for "people programs" that have been shortchanged in recent years or suffered sharp cuts in federal aid.
"While we have significantly reduced overall budget growth, we are seeing increased emphasis in programs people need the most," Barry said in a written message that accompanied the budget's delivery late yesterday afternoon to the City Council.
However, the mayor has put off for at least another year his plan to set aside $10 million annually to begin retiring a portion of the city's nagging $388-million accumulated debt.
Instead, he earmarked those funds for the city's troubled school system, arguing that the needs of the city's children take precedence over the need to deal with "the sins of the past." In previous years, Barry has proposed holding the line on school spending, and in last year's budget proposed an absolute reduction in spending that was later rejected by the City Council.
The total school budget of $285.5 million includes $22 million to pay expected salary increases.
The mayor's new budget also departs sharply from the city's long-term building and maintenance program by slashing proposed spending for capital improvements by 54 percent, from $182.4 million this year to $83.6 million next year.
Barry said the city's public works program would focus on street and bridge repairs and completion of projects already begun, including renovating public housing and replacing water and sewer mains. A separate story on the capital improvements budget appears on Page B1.
The mayor also has proposed closing two fire houses in Ward 2 that he said are underutilized--Engine Co. No. 3 at 439 New Jersey Ave. NW, and Engine Co. No. 23 at 2119 G St. NW.
Barry aides said that residents affected by the closings would be served by nearby fire companies and would not suffer a loss in services. However, the City Council must approve the closings, and in the past the council has been reluctant to do so.
Among the "people programs" for which the mayor proposed significant spending increases were the following:
The city's allocation to the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, which gets most of its funds from the federal government, was increased by 70 percent to $26.9 million. Barry has targeted most of the increase for a rehabilitation financing program in Ward 8, a mostly poor and overwhelmingly black area of Southeast Washington.
The program would include 122 loans to rehabilitate vacant apartments in the Alabama Avenue corridor as well as a $1.6 million increase for home purchase loans to low and moderate-income residents in the area.
There would be an increase of 69 percent or $519,700 in spending for the Commission on Arts and Humanities. City officials said yesterday the funds will be used to increase the number and size of grants to local artists, theater groups and other cultural organizations.
The budget for the city's Office of Aging would be increased by $1 million, which Barry said would extend services to 10,000 additional senior citizens. The programs to be affected include bus services, hot meals at community service centers and in-home health care and home-maintenance services for bedridden older residents.
Among the city's major departments, Barry has proposed a $316-million budget for the Department of Human Services (DHS), a $25.5-million increase that primarily covers items over which the city has little control, such as Medicaid and foster care.
The police department's budget was increased by $8 million, to a total of $128 million, which will enable the city to maintain an officer strength of 3,880, replace deteriorating communications equipment and step up programs to combat illegal drug trafficking. The Fire Department's budget was increased by $225,000, to a total of $45.2 million. The additional funds would be used to add five inspectors and improve ambulance operations.
Barry's budget provides for a six-fold increase in funding for the city's new $99.8 million convention center across from Mount Vernon Square downtown, which is scheduled to open in January 1983. This includes $2.3 million for the installation of theater-style seats and $1.9 million for marketing and promotion to attract events and tourists.
The extra expenditures will be financed in part by an increase in the city's hotel room tax, from 80 cents to $1 a day, and a 10 percent surtax on the corporation and unincorporated business franchise tax.
City officials say that in the first year of operation, the convention center would generate $24.1 million in spending in the city by delegates and visitors.
Barry, who laid off more than 1,000 workers during the 1981 fiscal year in an effort to contain a massive budget deficit projected that year, pledged that there would be no loss of jobs in the work force next year.
The city's permanent work force would be reduced by 768, to a total of 29,000 employes. But most of the reductions would be made through attrition and elimination of currently-unfilled posts, the mayor said.
The budget includes funds for a 5-percent pay increase for all city employes. If the increase is larger than that, then additional funds would be requested later.
Barry's proposal for a 34 percent increase in water and sewer charges comes on top of a 30 percent increase that went into effect in October, 1980. If the proposed increase is approved, the average D.C. family of four would pay an additional $41 a year in service charges.
The mayor insisted that another increase was essential to help wipe out an operating deficit. Toward that end, the mayor also is taking the unprecedented step of proposing to shift $20 million in general revenues to the separate water and sewer fund.
In addition to the water and sewer rate rise, the proposed increase in the tax on utility companies' gross receipts, which is expected to raise $8.3 million, may indirectly hit the pocket books of city residents.
A utility tax measure introduced by council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), would increase by 8.3 to 11 percent the annual tax that Washington-area utilities pay to the city government. However, company spokesmen recently testified that they would seek to pass along the added cost to their customers in the form of a rate increase that would raise the average monthly bill by $6 or more.
The proposed increase in auto-related fees will not affect the annual vehicle registration fee. However, the budget does call for an increase in 17 minor charges, including a doubling of the certificate of title fee to $10, increasing from $2 to $5 the fee to transfer car registrations, and increasing from $3 to $5 the cost of having vehicles inspected.
Barry's plan calls for overall spending in fiscal 1983 of $1.98 billion, including $1.76 million in operating expenditures, $83.6 million in capital improvements, $124 million in water and sewer services, and $7.5 million to operate the Convention Center.
Of the $1.77 billion in projected operating revenues, $1.2 billion will come from local taxes as well as an expected annual federal payment from Congress of $336.6 million to compensate the city for lost tax revenues and other costs associated with the operation of the federal government here.
Barry's formal submission of the budget yesterday is only the first step in a lengthy city budget process that will drag on for most of the rest of the year.
First, the City Council must hold hearings and take action on the budget. Barry can veto some of the council's actions and the council has the authority to override any vetoes.
After the city government completes its action, congressional committees and subcommittees hold hearings and act on the budget before it is finally approved as part of the federal budget.
City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon said yesterday he would reserve judgment on Barry's proposal until he had time to study the document, which arrived at his office late in the afternoon.
However, Dixon said he feared the Department of Finance and Revenue may have been overly optimistic in preparing fiscal 1983 revenue estimates for the mayor.
For instance, Dixon said it was "a bit questionable" whether income tax revenues would increase by nearly 20 percent next year, in light of high unemployment and continued layoffs in Washington.
The department's revenue estimates, while staunchly defended by the mayor's top budget advisers, have missed the mark in the past.
In fiscal 1980, for example, when Barry's administration ran up a $105 million deficit, revenues fell short of the estimate. By contrast, revenues far exceeded the projections in fiscal 1981, which helped the mayor to end that year with an estimated $7 million surplus. 1983 D.C. BUDGET AT A GLANCE
CITY SERVICES Operating expenditures would total $1.76 billion, an increase of 11.4 percent over the current budget. There would be no significant reductions in services except for the closing of two fire stations in Ward 2.
TAXES & USER FEES Water and sewer charges would increase by 34 percent. The city's hotel tax would rise from 80 cents to $1 per room, with the increased revenues earmarked for Convention Center operations. In all, $14.6 million in new taxing authority is being requested, including a gross receipts tax on utility companies. There would be no increase in property, income or sales tax rates, although inflation and reassessments will boost revenues from those sources by $130 million.
CITY WORKERS The city's permanent workforce would be forced by 768, to a total of 29,000 employes. Most of the reductions would be made through attrition and elimination of currently unfilled posts. The budget includes funds for a 5-percent pay increase for all city employes. If the increase is larger tnan that, additional funds would be requested later.
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS The budget for new building and capital improvements projects would be slashed by 54 percent, from $182.4 million to $83.6 million, with emphasis in city public works programs focusing on street and bridge repairs and finishing existing projects.
PROGRAMS An additional $14.6 million in local funds would be spent on housing and employment programs, energy assistance for the poor and improvements in the city's financial management system. Much of this spending would offset reductions in federal aid.