The writer is the District’s auditor and served on the D.C. Council from 1995 to 2006.
With the D.C. Council scheduled to vote on the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget Wednesday, a few numbers may help provide context for residents following the deliberations, based on looking at how the District’s budget has changed over the last decade.
30 percent: That is how much the District’s local funds budget has grown, adjusted for inflation, since the fiscal year 2006 budget was approved, measured by comparing it with the 2016 budget submitted by Mayor Muriel Bowser. “Local funds budget” means the dollars raised from taxes — sales, property and income — and excludes federal grants and fees raised by utilities and other special sources. The fiscal year 2006 budget was $5.6 billion, accounting for inflation, and the current proposed local funds total is $7.3 billion. That 30 percent growth in spending spans the 2008 economic downturn, which was less severe in the District than most of the country. (According to an analysis by my office, our $5.76 billion in 2008 revenue dropped to $5.25 billion in 2010, but rebounded in 2011 and hit a new high by 2012.)
$11,121: That’s what the D.C. government will spend out of local funds per District resident in the coming fiscal year at the levels under consideration by the council. The District’s population has grown significantly over the past 10 years, but spending is growing faster! Per-capita spending in local funds was roughly $9,900 in 2006 when the population was 571,000, and will top $11,000 with a population of 660,000.
35,835: That’s the current payroll of the District of Columbia government — a list that’s publicly available. It’s a somewhat misleading number because it includes about 2,000 individuals who are adjunct professors or substitute teachers or individuals in training slots, plus other part-time or temporary workers. The proposed budget puts the total for full-time-equivalent employees at 27,708, a 13.5 percent increase from 2006.
$63,600: That’s the median salary for a District government employees. If you exclude the very part-time adjuncts and substitutes, the median salary is more like $66,000, which is pretty close to the median income in the District as a whole.
4,352: Notwithstanding the median, that’s the number of D.C. government earners at more than $100,000 a year in salary, or 13 percent of the workforce. The three highest earners, hovering around $300,000, are the interim president of the University of the District of Columbia, the new city administrator and the chancellor of D.C. Public Schools.
$600 million: That’s what we taxpayers will be paying this coming fiscal year for our accumulated debt – it’s the budget line for “repayment of loans and interest.” And it is the fourth line from the top of the local funds budget — the only categories that are bigger numbers are the lines for the Department of Health Care Finance (which includes Medicaid), D.C. Public Schools and D.C. public charter schools. We’re paying more for debt service this coming year than the entire budget of the Metropolitan Police Department or the District’s contribution to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. That number is, in part, the price we are paying for all the new schools and recreation centers. In 2006, the council opted to spend annual tax revenue to rebuild schools, but that lasted just three years. Since then, it’s all been borrowed money.
There are other important numbers that represent the District’s priorities such as the funding level for homeless services and housing, and some numbers that are in contention in budget debates, such as whether and at what level the council will fund body-worn cameras for police officers. But the overall picture from the numbers above is a community that is strong financially, and one that hasn’t shirked from raising and spending an increasing number of taxpayer dollars.
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