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With Sequestration Now a Reality the City Council Will Need to be Especially Prudent

The good news is that the District’s “rainy day” funds have increased by 46 percent in a single year, and, as reported to the City Council on February 6th by Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Natwar M. Gandhi, fund balance has increased to over $1.5 billion with $781 million in reserve.

But the less-than-good news according to the CFO’s office is that DC can anticipate taking in less than half of last year’s surplus –- seen by some of our politicians as a “windfall” –- amounting to only around $190 million. The reason, not surprisingly, points to the effects of sequestration that will hit DC especially hard. In projecting revenue expectations for the remaining six months of the current fiscal year, Gandhi “anticipates lowered revenue and slower revenue growth” which will likely mean a $90 million revenue hit.

If this sobering outlook doesn’t convince our politicians to be extremely cautious in attempting to tap into this “windfall,” we have to hope –- after all, hope springs eternal –- that they will study the summary prepared by the White House, the part regarding DC specifically, excerpted by us below.

“If sequestration were to take effect, some examples of the impacts in the District of Columbia this year alone are

“Teachers and Schools: The District of Columbia will lose approximately $533,000 in funding for primary and secondary education. In addition about 1,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 2 fewer schools would receive funding.

“Education for Children with Disabilities: In addition, the District of Columbia will lose approximately $925,000 in funds for teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.

“Work-Study Jobs: Around 500 fewer low income students in the District of Columbia would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 510 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.

“Head Start: Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 200 children in the District of Columbia, reducing access to critical early education.

“Protections for Clean Air and Clean Water: The District of Columbia would lose about $1 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, the District of Columbia could lose another $64,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.

“Military Readiness: In the District of Columbia, approximately 13,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $111.3 million in total.

“Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds for Crime Prevention and Prosecution: The District of Columbia will lose about $80,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.

“Job Search Assistance to Help those in the District of Columbia find Employment and Training: The District of Columbia will lose about $174,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 5,460 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.

“Vaccines for Children: In the District of Columbia around 370 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $25,000.

“Public Health: The District of Columbia will lose approximately $57,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. In addition, the District of Columbia will lose about $330,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 500 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the District of Columbia Department of Health will lose about $324,000 resulting in around 8,100 fewer HIV tests.

“STOP Violence Against Women Program: The District of Columbia could lose up to $13,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 100 fewer victims being served.

“Nutrition Assistance for Seniors: The District of Columbia would lose approximately $191,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors.:

Note that these are all programs of extreme importance to District residents and these funds are no longer going to be available either through direct federal payments, contracts and grants, or indirectly as a result of foregone income and business tax receipts as a result of lost employment and lost sales.

It seems absolutely clear to us that the professed desire of some of our politicians to gain favor with voters to start raiding our fund balance is totally unacceptable. Failure to be prudent ought to have consequences come the next election.