On Feb. 3, Mayor Barry submitted to the D.C. Council a fiscal year 1987 budget request of $2.4 billion. Including grants and other funds, his proposed operating expenses for the District government totaled $3.35 billion -- an astounding $5,400 for every resident of our city.
On March 18, not to be undone, the council -- with my lone dissent -- adopted a budget greater by some $20 million than that proposed by the mayor. The council's review process included long and extensive hearings. Those well orchestrated public hearings had it all: citizen involvement; council involvement; administration involvement; press coverage; and long and often dramatic questioning. The only thing missing was results.
Funds for improving vital services could have been provided, long overdue tax relief could have been given, and our city debt -- the borrowing of money from our children -- could have been reduced. The only casualty would have been the enormous waste in nonessential government services and reprogrammed slush-fund monies. Instead, once again, the council did nothing. Of the mayor's $2.4 billion, the council redirected only $2.7 million -- 0.1 percent, or a mere $4 for each resident.
The budget submission was the 13th under home rule. The first, for fiscal year 1975, provided for operating expenses of $1.19 billion. This year's budget, at $3.35 billion, is an increase of almost 300 percent. The cost of District government has outstripped the area's inflation rate over the past 13 years by 78 percent -- a staggering amount of more than $900 million.
Bad as that is, the news is far worse: increases in the costs of this government in these 13 years are in all the wrong places. For example, while the budgets of the board of education and the police and fire departments have been no greater than the rate of inflation, the personnel office has increased by 900 percent, and the department of consumer and regulatory affairs budget increased from $225,000 to $38.5 million.
While government and its cost have expanded dramatically, vital services to our people have not increased; only the size and the cost of our bureaucracy have increased. Our tax burden is among the highest in the country, while our services are dreadful -- and still, few in this government seem to care.
Where are this government's priorities? In this government antisuicide railings are constructed on bridges, while the bridges themselves and their sidewalks and roadways are falling apart.
Businesses continue to leave the District, while this administration is taking credit for busing our residents into suburban Virginia for jobs in light industry -- industry which would, if properly encouraged, have located within the District.
Our public housing projects fall down around our most needy citizens, while federal money to repair those projects lies unused in banks. Millions of tax dollars are wasted at Blue Plains as favored contractors add unnecessary water to District sludge to increase their hauling fees.
The District cannot fully finance our public schools, but it can commit millions to the merger of the practically defunct Antioch Law School into the already mismanaged University of the District of Columbia. We do not fund adequate prison facilities, but the Barry administration can find money to renovate a building to house convicted felons next to a public school.
During the budget process, we were told that we should be happy because we could finance this misprioritized budget with no tax increases. Whom are we kidding? While the real estate tax rates may remain constant, the assessments continue to rise and rise, year in and year out, as government continues to gouge our property owners and renters alike.
The cost of our government has increased wildly to be matched by wildly increased taxes but not matched by better services -- not for the wealthy, not for the poor, not for anyone. A budget has been characterized as the road map for government. By that standard, we have taken too many wrong turns and are clearly heading toward a dead end. The writer is a Republican at-large member of the D.C. Council. standard, we have taken too many wrong turns and are clearly heading toward a dead end.