The District government work force is top-heavy with administrators and should be reduced by 6,212 positions over the next five fiscal years, according to preliminary findings by an independent commission.
The reductions, including major cuts in the police and human service departments, would represent an 11.5 percent decrease in the positions authorized for the current fiscal year and save the city up to $196.8 million annually, according to the report.
The report was done by a subcommittee of the District's Commission on Budget and Financial Priorities, the first independent group to tackle the question of bloat in D.C. government by examining the staffing levels of all city agencies.
Mayor Marion Barry appointed the 45-member commission, made up mostly of business leaders, to help the city develop a five-year fiscal plan for balancing future city budgets.
The full commission must approve any work force recommendations, which may not be as extensive by the time the commission releases its final report. Already, the work force findings have become a sensitive issue within the commission, where some members predict a heated debate. The commission's final report is expected to be made public after the November election, a move designed to depoliticize the recommendations.
Alice M. Rivlin, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution and chairman of the commission, could not be reached for comment yesterday about the preliminary findings.
Other commission members declined yesterday to discuss the work force report, obtained by The Washington Post. "The details of that report are supposed to be confidential and we're not ready to talk about it," said one member.
Critics, including D.C. Council members and some of the mayoral candidates, have characterized the city government as a bloated bureaucracy, especially in areas of top and mid-level management. The District has more than 48,000 employees and spends about $1.4 billion of its annual $3 billion budget on personal services.
Council member John Wilson (D-Ward 2), chairman of the council Committee on Finance and Revenue, said the commission's findings will add a new dimension to the budget debate. The city has projected a deficit of $90 million for the current fiscal year.
"It does establish the fact that we have a bloated bureaucracy," said Wilson. The Barry administration "keeps saying that we don't . . . . The problem becomes, politically, whether or not you can implement" the recommendations.
A summary of the commission's work force findings and recommendations notes that about 20 percent -- or 1,233 of the overall staffing reductions -- would be aimed largely at "correcting for unnecessary levels of management, excessive numbers of administrative staff." The majority of the reductions, 4,979, would be achieved through program changes and reorganizations, according to the report.
The proposal calls for phasing in the reductions over five years, beginning with 5,072 positions in fiscal 1992. The report describes those as mostly excessive positions and not related to the delivery of city services.
The report called for reductions in some agencies where city officials have said the demand for services is greatest. The police department, for example, would lose 1,527 positions and human service agencies would lose a total of 2,243 positions, including 1,006 positions from the Commission on Public Health if the report's recommendations were put into effect.
N. Anthony Calhoun, acting director of the Department of Human Services, the city's largest agency, said that his staff could be streamlined in some areas, but major reductions would mean cuts in services.
In studying the D.C. work force, the commission compared the city's fiscal 1987 staffing levels to the staffing levels of 12 other major cities for the same period. The comparison showed that the District had 710 workers per 10,000 population, compared to an average of 204 for the other cities, which included Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Unlike many cities, the District performs some state and county functions, such as operating a corrections department. But even when the commission included state- and county-level services, it found that the other cities still had lower staffing levels, an average of 509 workers per 10,000 population.