The council, which will hold a public discussion on the plan, is likely to offer its own ideas, said Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D). "There are only two ways to do this. I don't mean to be simplistic, but make cuts or raise money," Gray said. Fenty's proposal trims about $60 million from the budgets of city agencies.
Among the hardest hit in dollar amounts are the police department ($4 million reduction), employment services ($3.5 million), the health department ($2.9 million) and transportation ($2.6 million).
There were grumblings, mostly private, about the increasing public schools budget, an area Fenty has deemed untouchable and that escaped any proposed cuts. Gray said the council must look closer at proposed increases. "It's not as if you're cutting the [education] budget. You're cutting the increases," he said.
The Child and Family Services Agency, which has been hit by a massive influx of cases in the wake of the Banita Jacks case last winter, is set to lose $1.5 million. Jacks is charged with killing her four daughters, after city social workers failed to respond to reports of potential abuse.
"The question is: In reviewing vacancies, did they make sure positions really were likely to remain unfilled?" asked Ed Lazere, director of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit group that studies District budget issues and advocates for social service investment. "The child welfare agency needs more social workers now."
The American Federation of Government Employees District 14 represents some social workers. They are among 5,000 union members in local government. Workers are upset by the proposal to cut the vacancies, which would be added to 650 vacant positions Fenty cut in an initial budget this year. He also wants to postpone an investment in retirement benefits for employees, a move that could save $10 million.
"They're going to have to do more work with less. . . . At the same time, the mayor is hiring people that are not already employed with the District," said Dwight Bowman, the union's national vice president.
The union was not surprised by the proposals but was not fully informed or consulted, Bowman said. "The Fenty administration has not only played hardball but has played crooked ball."
Some council members also viewed the plan as a sly move by Fenty. Namely, the plan shows a cost savings if the council approves a contract to replace a longtime vendor of the city's lottery system with a new firm. The council tabled the contract this year and has not moved on it despite pressure from the administration.
"They talk about the lottery like the lottery's going to save all the money," said council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large).
It would save $1.25 million for the year, which one council member called "chump change" in terms of the $131 million shortfall.
Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) is proposing emergency legislation that would require Fenty to submit a "contingency financial plan" for the fiscal 2009 budget to the council by Nov. 15. The plan would be based on the September revenue estimates for fiscal 2009 through 2012.
The council will vote on the emergency legislation today.