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Gray Set to Unveil Budget

James Wright | , WI Staff Writer | 3/15/2012, 2:13 p.m.

Gray questioned Gandhi's accounting methods based on factors such as the city's population growth, declining unemployment, and economic growth. Gray's contention is that with these factors in play, the city should be seeing a higher assessment of the 2013 budget.

"It is difficult for me to believe that the revenue impact of these positive trends in Fiscal Year 2013 will be as insignificant as you currently project."

Gandhi is known for his conservative estimates, and he generally argues that it is best to err on the side of anticipating lower revenue, instead of wild speculation based on the expectation of higher estimates.

Gray's $115 million figure, which is an off-hand estimate based on information he is getting from Gandhi's office, is disputed by staff at the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute in Northeast. The Institute studies poverty in the District and makes recommendations to political and business leaders on how to alleviate it.

Elissa Silverman, a staffer at the Institute, said she believes the deficit will be closer to $164 million and has proposed ways to close the budget gap.

Silverman, on the Institute's Web site on Wed., March 7, said Gray should use "pay-as-you-go" for capital projects instead of borrowing; require higher-earning couples to report their incomes together instead of separately; reduce unnecessary deductions and exemptions and apply the sales tax to more purchased services such as pet care, barber and beauty services.

"Taking these options would bring a balanced approach to the Fiscal Year 2013 budget," she said.

Whatever the deficit happens to be, some residents think Gray should focus on economic development.

"The mayor should put more money in the areas east of the Anacostia River," said Maurice Thornton, who lives in Southeast. "We need revitalization east of the river and more money needs to be put into school construction and improving technological access in the inner city."

Thornton, 27, is the vice president of Le Vound Inc., a design and construction company in Southeast.

"When the city puts money into an area, the area looks better. The reason that downtown or the area by Nationals ballpark looks nice is because the city invested money in those places," he said. "The city should do the same for Ward 7 and Ward 8."

Brown said that whatever budget the mayor proposes on March 23, he should not forget the city's indigent.

"It is people of color [who] rely on government in this city for survival," he said. "They are the ones who rely on housing vouchers and [government programs] to keep food on the table. We just cannot keep cutting people out."