D.C. residents’ reaction to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s $19.5 billion 2022-2023 budget proposal released on March 16 has drawn mixed reviews.
Bowser’s budget calls for the funding of an array of city services but doesn’t increase taxes. In a statement, the mayor noted city residents have made sacrifices during the coronavirus pandemic and “we want to make up for lost time and opportunities.”
Highlights of the proposal include:
- $30 million to hire, recruit and retain police officers
- $251 million to build a new annex to the D.C. jail
- $35 million to build a create a community-based program at Winston Educational Campus in Southeast with a state-of-the-art laboratory equipment for hands-on learning
- Funding for a new indoor sports complex at RFK Stadium in Southeast that will include amenities such as gymnastics training facility, indoor track, climbing walls and boxing
- A new high school in the Palisades neighborhood in Northwest
- A dog park at Oxon Run in Ward 8
- A new indoor pool at the Hillcrest Recreation Center
- The creation of a $10 million Black Homeownership Fund and Strikeforce designed to help longtime Black homeowners in the city and
- Increasing the Housing Production Trust to $500 million, a new high.
Feedback on the proposed budget
D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) asked questions about the expansion of the police cadet program from Anacostia High School to other campuses and the administration’s commitment to more funding for violence interrupters during the mayor’s introduction of her proposal to the council on March 16 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) inquired about the expansion of the health care facilities in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. Bowser responded to Gray saying the new St. Elizabeths Hospital will open in late 2024 and in Ward 8, an urgent care facility will be operational in the fall and with its counterpart in Ward 7 functional in 2023.
Additionally, the council held a full briefing on the budget with the mayor on March 18. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said the committees will consider their portions of the budget from March 21-April 8. On April 8, Mendelson said the Committee of the Whole will hold a public hearing on the budget and encouraged residents to participate.
He said committee markups of the mayor’s budget will occur on April 20-21 with the first vote on the proposal on May 10 and the second vote and final action on May 24.
Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large), who serves as the chairman of the Committee on Housing and Executive Administration, likes the mayor’s proposal. In a statement, she praised the increase to the Housing Production Trust Fund, $41 million for project vouchers to make housing deeply affordable for low income residents, $120 million in rental and utility assistance, more funds for down payment assistance for low-income homebuyers, $1 million to help muti-generational families maintain their property after the death of the original homeowner and a 2% senior property tax cap, which lowers the cap on annual increases in property taxes for seniors from 5% to 2%.
“This budget prioritizes the needs of our most vulnerable residents while providing new resources to our middle-income community and seniors,” Bonds said. “I am ready to work with the mayor, her staff and my council colleagues to make sure that these initiatives are fully funded and implemented during the next fiscal year.”
Villareal Johnson, a former Ward 7 advisory neighborhood commissioner and a leader in the Hillcrest Community Civic Association, said the mayor’s budget on Winston has promise.
“There is excitement that the mayor responded to community voices about Winston,” Johnson said. “However, the community thinks they can benefit from a new school.”
Johnson noted a letter sent to the civic association regarding Winston recently saying the existing building will be demolished and a new facility will replace it. The letter said it will be open for students in both the District’s public and charter schools. Johnson said the administration’s plans for Winston are intriguing but lacking as far as what the neighborhood really needs.
“We really need a middle school in this area,” Johnson said. “Many parents in Hillcrest are sending their children west of the river to go to middle school or their kids are going to private school. The closest middle school to Hillcrest is Sousa Middle School but it is a hassle to get there and the neighborhood is questionable. Basically, what does the mayor’s proposal mean for elementary school children who reside south of Massachusetts Avenue?”
Eric Weaver, the founder and chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Returning Citizens, likes the mayor’s plan to add a new annex to the D.C. Jail.
“This is long overdue,” Weaver said. “The conditions at the D.C. Jail have been bad for a long time. It’s been close to 50 years since some parts of the jail have been built. It is my hope that the new annex will be program-centered where residents will be able to get the training and skills they need to function in the outside world.”