WASHINGTON — According to city data, the District has lost nearly $1.5 billion in revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Mayor Muriel Bowser is proposing the city's 37,000 workers help recover some of the costs.
"What we're saying here is not insignificant, Bowser said at Monday's press conference. "We do not have mass layoffs here, we do not have furlough days here, and what we asked our employees do is work with us while the economy comes back."
The mayor said this is not the budget she planned, but faced with an unprecedented challenge -- the COVID-19 crisis -- she said it's the best city leaders could offer. The proposed budget closes the gap by depleting the city's $322 million surplus from 2019, shifting millions around and slashing pay raises for all government workers. According to the budget, that would save the city $89.1 million.
DC Fire & EMS' contract is set to expire in 2022 and MPD's contract expires in September 2020. While our first responders are spared the proposed pay freeze, the mayor's spokesperson said the cuts could impact negotiations.
The DC police union issued a statement that read in part:
"This means that the city will not fulfill their agreement to provide raises, even to labor unions who have contractual raises in the upcoming fiscal year. This is a remarkable position for the City to take. The Union currently has a collective bargaining agreement with the City that expires on September 30, 2020. While this position is alarming, it is merely that, the position of the Mayor’s Office. There are still a number of procedural steps that the budget must go through, including approval in the DC Council."
But it's not all bad news. The proposed budget still offers a significant investment in job creation, housing, health, public safety and education. The old Spingarn High School in Northeast, which has sat vacant for seven years, could get a $52 million investment to transform the dilapidated building into a new school for D.C. Infrastructure Academy.
In fact, 41 schools are slated for million-dollar modernizations under the plan. The city said per-pupil funding would increase and there would be more money for technology, especially for those DC Public School students who struggled to get access during distance learning.
Elizabeth Davis, the president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, thanked the Mayor for sparing school positions that were in limbo like librarians.
"Their per-pupil funding increase is not enough for the rising costs of individual school budgets," Davis said. "But it does prevent staffing shortages, which we appreciate especially at this time."