By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
Mayor Muriel Bowser held a special town hall event for seniors this week as part of a series of Budget Engagement Forums for District residents throughout the month of February. Bowser, senior staff and members of the Bernice Fonteneau Senior Wellness Center were all present at the John A. Wilson Building, Room G-9, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, as well as about 300 phone participants representing all wards to talk about the budget and concerns for seniors.
First off the mayor mentioned several line items that impacted seniors including a cut from 10 to 5 percent of how much property taxes could go up qualifying seniors each year. Bowser also highlighted $100 million for the Housing Production Trust Fund, $10 million Housing Preservation Fund, as well as $5 million for the Transport D.C. program and $7 million water bill relief for residents, churches and other religious organizations.
She also mentioned funds purposed towards senior centers like $11.4 million towards a new wellness center in Ward 8 and $3 million towards renovating existing centers in Model City and Congress Heights.
“These investments are making sure we continue to be an age friendly city,” Bowser said.
Kevin Donahue the District’s Deputy city Administrator broke down the budget timeline and process for residents.
“Right now we are in the peak of budget season as we are planning for 2020 budget,” Donahue said. “It’s more than a document, it’s our plan to move D.C. forward,” Donahue said. “This can only happen with your support and feedback.”
Donahue reiterated that D.C. has a long history of a balanced budget, for more than 20 years, and highlighted how most of the District’s 7.9 Billion budget is allocated.
According to the mayor’s office:
– $2.3 billion goes to education;
– Public Safety accounts for $1.2 billion
– $336 million is set aside for jobs, housing, and economic opportunity
– $2 billion covers Health and Human Services
– Transportation, government operations and pension funds amount to about $2 billion
Buddy Moore, a District resident thanked the mayor and officials for the D.C. Dental Service Program and asked if it would continue.
“It sounds like a program we will continue to watch every year to make sure it has the types of funds it needs,” Bowser said. “I anticipate this is the type of programs that grows and grows, so we will have to see how people apply and how much we need to invest every year.”
Affordable housing also took front and center in the conversation for residents and the mayor’s office.
“One thing I have learned is we talk about adding more affordable housing,” Bowser said, “But sometimes when it comes down to individual products our actions as communities and neighborhoods don’t match our concern for affordable housing.”
“We have many hundreds of units that are held up in court because there is a group of people suing us anytime we advance a planned unit development,” Bowser said. “We as a city have to confront this mismatch that I see.”
“The issue of homelessness is an all eight wards problem. The same is true for affordability. We all have to be apart of the solution.”
Bowser said she would call on representative from each ward to come together to set up goals for affordable housing in the entire district.
After the forums the Mayor’s office will submit a budget proposal to the D.C. Council by March 20th. The Council will go over it, and turn in their finalized budget by the end of May. The public still has three more opportunities to weigh in on budget concerns February 21st, 23rd and 25th. To see last year’s budget in full please click here. For more information please contact https://mayor.dc.gov/