Councilmember Allen's FY25 Budget Letter to Mayor Bowser

The following letter was sent from Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen to Mayor Muriel Bowser outlining his budget priorities and asks to the Mayor ahead of her formal budget submission later in March, which begins the Council's deliberations on the FY25 budget, which will begin on October 1.

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March 12, 2024

The Honorable Mayor Muriel Bowser
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004



Dear Mayor Bowser:

I am writing as you finalize your proposed Fiscal Year 2025 budget to the Council with my priorities for city-wide and Ward 6 investments, as well as those in my capacity as the Chair of the Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment. These past few years have been difficult for the District, and I thank you for your partnership as we worked together to address these multifaceted challenges. And I anticipate that this year will be even more challenging. I look forward to working with you and your Administration as we consider the proposed budget, and I am happy to discuss any proposal in further detail.

Committee on Transportation and the Environment and City-Wide Priorities

Funding for WMATA 

My top priority, and one on which I have appreciated working so closely with you and Chairman Mendelson, is ensuring the District does our part to solve WMATA’s fiscal cliff. We have made an additional $200 million commitment in the coming budget on top of our existing obligation. This will be essential to support both our downtown and our neighborhoods, both our daytime and late-night workforces. And it will be money well-spent; Metrorail and Metrobus are trending in the right directions with improved service and ridership that reflect those improvements. I look forward to working with you and your team on meeting our obligations this year and also making progress on a dedicated funding mechanism that allows the District and WMATA to avoid these recurring high-stakes budget scenarios.

Roadway Safety 

The District ended 2023 with 52 traffic fatalities – the highest number of roadway deaths in nearly 20 years. To build safer streets, the District must design and construct roadways in a manner that discourages speeding and protects vulnerable road users. For this reason, I urge you to fund the remaining provisions of the Vision Zero Omnibus Amendment Act of 2020, Safe Streets for Students Amendment Act of 2022, and Safer Streets Amendment Act of 2022. However, even with the best designs, there are drivers who will continue to speed or drive recklessly and endanger other roadway users. In these cases, the District needs a robust traffic enforcement system that can provide accountability and influence behavior. The Strengthening Traffic Enforcement, Education, and Responsibility (“STEER”) Amendment Act of 2024 creates several new tools to use against the most dangerous drivers – including granting the Office of the Attorney General the ability to bring civil suits against the most dangerous drivers and allowing the Department of Public Works to immobilize vehicles based on the frequency and severity of traffic violations. Fully funding the STEER Act will ensure that dangerous drivers face meaningful accountability for their behavior. In the interest of earning the trust of residents who are fined for speeding using one of our ATE cameras, the Council has twice now taken steps to dedicate that revenue back into safer streets funding, which would cover the funding of these laws and make a significant impact on dangerous driving and reaching our shared Vision Zero goals. Please leave that intact in your budget formulations, and we can cover much of DDOT, DPW, and MPD’s costs to reduce traffic fatalities.

Leading on Climate Action for All DC Residents

Last year, the Council supported increased resources to the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (“SETF”) to ensure adequate funding for low-income households to take action on climate change by helping transition to sustainable electrification and home modifications, thereby lowering energy costs and securing their homes for the future. This funding was approved and identified to support the Healthy Homes Amendment Act of 2024, which was unanimously approved by the Committee on Transportation and the Environment. As noted in the Fiscal Impact Statement, the SETF fully funds the new law. Please leave this critical funding intact to support low-income DC residents and working households' ability to afford electrification.

DC Circulator Transition

Last year, the Executive proposed eliminating much of the DC Circulator system with no plans to transition riders or workers to WMATA or other routes. The proposed cuts were devastating to downtown as it looked to recover and return workers, as well to residents needing to move around their neighborhoods. Fortunately, the Committee and Council were able to preserve an additional year of Circulator service to protect DC residents, businesses, and transit workers, but did so with an expectation that the Administration would work with WMATA to evaluate eventual transition of these lines to WMATA bus lines. In the following nine months, there has been very little coordination or communication by DDOT to work with WMATA on a potential transition plan. If the Executive plans to eliminate the DC Circulator again, I urge that a clear transition plan accompany your budget cuts to give riders, businesses, transit workers, and this Council confidence that WMATA will take over these routes without a reduction in service.

Strengthening Essential and Successful Government Programs

With the District’s budgetary challenges, it is even more important that our government’s essential and successful programs are fully resourced, staffed, and capable of meeting the needs of District residents. As you are aware, the Council passed, and your Administration is now implementing, an up to 10% increase in a household’s monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) benefit. This increased benefit will allow families to purchase more groceries at the store to meet their needs. However, the increase is slated to go away at the end of FY24. I ask that you make this increase permanent so that the more than 140,000 District residents on SNAP can continue to benefit.

It’s been no secret that our government has struggled with hiring and retention. Government positions must be fully staffed, and in order to successfully compete with the private sector, we must do more to make sure that District government employees have what they need to succeed and thrive. With that said, I ask that you fund the remaining provisions of the District Government Paid Leave Enhancement Amendment Act of 2022 in the amount of $18.2M in the upcoming fiscal year and $94.4M through the financial plan. If funded, District government employees will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of medical, bonding, and family leave, as well as two weeks of prenatal leave. 

The Access to Justice Initiative has been a critical investment for the District. Funding legal representation has promoted housing stability, public safety, and economic opportunities for individuals and small and local businesses. I know that we share these goals. I ask that you maintain funding for the Access to Justice (“ATJ”) Initiative at the level provided in FY24, which is $31.7M. I grew the ATJ Initiative by tens of millions of dollars during my time as Chair of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, and I feel strongly that our investment is returned in savings from avoided economic, health, and public safety costs of evictions. But I also recognize that ATJ funding must be paired with at least level funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, as the two are interrelated. 

Ensuring Support for Students and Educators

As we continue to grapple with the effects of the pandemic, we must enhance our investments in recruitment and retention support for our educators. Specifically, I would encourage you to continue to prioritize educator wellness, particularly through OSSE’s Educator Wellness Technical Assistance Grants, flexible scheduling, and additional investments in permanent substitute teachers. 

Students can’t benefit from excellent teachers or programming if they can’t get to and from school safely. I’ve asked repeatedly for Safe Passage funding for teams around the Eastern Market and Potomac Avenue Metro stations, most recently after losing the fourth student to gun violence at Digital Pioneers Academy, only to have been denied again and again. This is a desperate need in Ward 6 and across the city, likely in the range of $2M, and it is a top priority for me. And it goes hand-in-hand with expanded Out of School Time funding, the expansion of conflict resolution programming in schools, and sustained compensation for community-based clinicians in the School-Based Behavioral Health Program.

In our schools, I’m constantly amazed by educational and experiential programming like FRESHFARM FoodPrints. I enjoyed excellent sweet potato tacos and learned how to plant garlic just a few weeks ago with Watkins Elementary School 4th graders. They were animated and curious, applying their hands-on exercises to what they were reading. FoodPrints reaches nearly 21 elementary schools across the District, and the Council has had to step in to protect it time and again. I ask that you fund the program’s full budget request of $2.32M.

Our students and educators must have all the resources they need to make sure that our students are able to read and write at grade level. The Early Literacy Task Force released recommendations in September 2023 grounded in empirically-validated instructional methods with the aim of supporting early and struggling readers. I ask that you fully fund the Early Literacy Task Force’s recommendations. Making this investment will ensure the implementation of structured literacy training for teachers and leaders, provide on-the-job structured literacy support for educators, and ensure that high-quality literacy instructional materials are used in classrooms across the District. I also ask that you continue to prioritize technology and devices for DCPS students. The increased reliance on technology to learn and teach necessitates an annual funding commitment to maintain the DCPS technology infrastructure and provide reliable, functional devices for all learners and teachers. I ask that you include at least $18.5M ($16.8M for new purchases of student devices and $1.7M for new purchases of teacher devices) to refresh computer devices for DCPS students and school staff.

Fully Funding Public Safety

Finally, knowing this is a challenging budget, I still urge the District to be creative in addressing a real challenge in attracting and retaining good first responders: childcare that fits with shift work. In MPD’s 2023 workplace survey, childcare was one of the top issues raised by officers. I am certain a similar dynamic exists for our firefighters and 911/311 call takers. And that makes sense – these are jobs with demanding and shifting hours at work. A pilot program focused on one area that could serve parents working overnight shifts with an established child care facility could be an attractive and unique benefit to offer to our first responders. 

In terms of other retention and recruitment incentives for public safety personnel, I would ask that you continue to partner with the Council to responsibly scale up MPD’s Cadet Program, which you and I grew in partnership together when I was the Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety from 15 to 150 cadets per year. I will also reiterate my support from many past budget letters for capital funding to prioritize MPD District stations and substations and our firehouses for modernizations. Many public safety facilities in the District are in poor repair. We have invested significantly in our schools and libraries, and it is time to take on other capital projects that will directly impact first responders’ desires to stay with the District.

On other public safety priorities, I would again urge you to fully fund grants and services for victims and survivors of crime. The Council alone has backfilled local budget cuts to the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants - the city’s primary grant funder in this area - for nearly a decade. Supporting victims of crime means actually supporting victims of crime with money for critical services, including expanded funding for victims of domestic, sexual, and other forms of violence. Similarly, recognizing that many people who commit harm are also victimized by it, keeping the District safe also requires at least level local funding for reentry housing and other services to help people returning from incarceration, as well as preventing cuts to other public safety responses like those supported by the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement and the Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

Protecting Faith Institutions and Organizations Vulnerable to Hate

I have worked closely with Ward 6 faith organizations when I had oversight of HSEMA and MPD to support them in navigating targeted funding for their security needs, and I call on you to renew your commitment to protecting these vital community organizations. Specifically, as hate crimes have risen here at home and across the country and world, I would ask that you identify at least $500,000 for a grant program for the security needs of non-profit and faith institutions at risk of hate crimes and terrorism.


Ward 6 Priorities

Protecting School Modernization Funding

With respect to elementary school modernizations across Ward 6, I request that their placement in the Capital Improvements Plan be preserved, if not expedited. The current schedule includes $90.9M for J.O. Wilson through FY26, $94.2M for Brent through FY27, $89.9M for Shirley Chisholm through FY28, and $84.2M for Amidon-Bowen through FY29. Modernizations of these facilities will help us meet the District’s goal of providing high quality educational facilities and I am certain play an important role in our growing DCPS enrollment numbers. Additionally, I ask that capital dollars be identified, separate from the individual school capital budgets, to create a dedicated modernization swing location in Ward 6. Currently, there is no swing space located in Ward 6, and schools undergoing modernization are often scheduled to be placed miles away, with travel times requiring 45 minutes to an hour. This is not an experience faced in other Wards of our city, and Ward 6 should not be an outlier. Improving this part of the modernization experience must be prioritized to help working families, ensure a more responsive modernization process, and reduce very lengthy travel times parents and caregivers must navigate.

Advancing Rumsey Aquatic Center’s Redesign

I am eager to work with you and your team to complete the design and planning for the modernization of Rumsey, which will now include a second floor space for our seniors and first floor space for a beautiful, modern public pool. There is enormous community support behind this project, and I know it will be something we can deliver on. My ask is to at least maintain the funding at its current levels – with the small amount of funding restored that was reprogrammed in FY24 – and with the anticipation that we will need to identify additional dollars before or during construction to complete the project.

Eastern Market Metro Park Placemaking and Events Programming

Eastern Market Metro Park (“EMMP”) is a still-new, but already beloved, community asset. On the weekends, the playground is overflowing with families and people sitting outside, and on many Friday nights, the Metro side of the park is vibrant with local music. However, this activation is sporadic, and there are already major maintenance, landscaping, and capital repair needs due to DGS’ and DPR’s failures to accept responsibility of the property and their outright neglect of the conditions. In the past few years’ budgets, I’ve added targeted funding for EMMP programming at DPR, in addition to funding in the current budget for behavioral health support. It is not enough, and the community is calling for deeper investments, including:

  • Doubling DPR’s grant funding for EMMP to at least $300,000;
  • Adding a new Park Manager FTE at DPR to be the primary point person for EMMP on maintenance and programming; and
  • A recurring capital fund of at least $500,000 for repairs and maintenance.

Eastern Market Security and Capital Needs

In close consultation with the Eastern Market Citizens Advisory Committee (“EMCAC”), I ask that you include funding in the budget to address identified security concerns inside and around the Market and continue funding for the capital improvements plan that has been so carefully tracked by market leadership and EMCAC. 

Increase the Small Retailer Property Tax Credit

I am working with local and small business owners every day in the Ward who are seeing their costs and their property taxes rising. There are many different headwinds facing our local businesses, but we have a great tool available right now to help them that doesn’t require a grant process or Main Street: the Small Retailer Property Tax Credit. This existing credit was claimed by 390 businesses in 2022, costing $1.7M. I recommend increasing the amount from $5,000 to $10,000 in recognition of the rising costs of doing business. As we rightly all focus on the future of downtown, I don’t want our small and local businesses, the ones who are sticking with us through good and bad times, to be left out. 

Investing in the H Street NE Corridor

The H Street NE corridor is vibrant and filled with small, local restaurants and retailers, but it also lacks cohesion and strategic vision. That’s why I created the H Street Alliance, a new initiative to uplift and bring focus to the corridor in the coming months. More than 200 volunteers have signed up to join our efforts, and we’ve created three working groups to prioritize public safety, small business support, and public space improvement and activation. It is clear that, at the very least, H Street needs significant city support focused on small businesses - especially for innovative partnerships, event planning, and activations – sidewalk maintenance and landscaping, corridor branding and promotion, and trash collection. I request a dedicated H Street NE investment of $5M for local businesses incentives and grants, public safety initiatives, and tactical transportation improvements to ensure we experience a resurgent corridor. Additionally, I would urge you to fund my private security camera expansion for interior cameras for businesses, included in Secure DC. 

A Community-Based Focus on Northwest One

As the population grows in the Sursum Corda and Northwest One communities, we need to work on community amenities that support our neighbors. Currently the District maintains a Boys and Girls Club, a public library, and a recreation center within several hundred feet of each other, and the historic Perry School is also nearby. None of the first three sites is currently meeting the needs of the neighborhood and creating safe spaces for kids, families, and seniors to come together, and they do not function together successfully. I would ask that you initiate a more focused effort on investing in the Northwest One community, particularly given the complex public safety challenges we’ve experienced in the area.

Randall Recreation Center

Thank you for including Randall Recreation Center’s modernization in last year’s budget. I know many members of the Southwest and Navy Yard communities are eager to see this project move forward, and I look forward to working with your team on designing a world-class recreation center that accommodates a number of uses, including a renovated pool, separately dedicated tennis and pickleball courts, refreshed basketball courts, and improved fields to support baseball and other field uses.

King-Greenleaf Recreation Center

King-Greenleaf Recreation Center remains a critical part of a community that serves many children and adults living in the nearby communities of Greenleaf, James Creek, and Syphax. It provides a safe refuge for children after school and on weekends, and the tennis and basketball courts see plenty of activity. I’d like to work with you on addressing chronic roof leaks that are damaging our beautiful new hardwood indoor basketball courts and other issues to ensure the center can be open and operating. The Southwest community - again, given the gun violence we’ve seen around the Rec - is also in dire need of free programming, and I’d ask that you subsidize costs for neighborhood young people participating in Rec programs.



Lastly, I am including several bills passed unanimously by the Council that I would ask you to fund:


  • Expanding Support for Crime Victims Amendment Act of 2022:


    • As the District continues to grapple with high levels of violence, we must do everything in our power to help survivors of crime recover and thrive. It is crucial, therefore, that the District fully fund this bill, which dramatically improves the rights and services available to victims. The bill expands access to, and the financial assistance available through, the Crime Victim Compensation Program, and enhances a number of laws aimed at maintaining a victim’s confidentiality.


  • Corrections Oversight Improvement Omnibus Amendment Act of 2022:


    • The bill makes urgent reforms to our correctional system by strengthening oversight and increasing transparency. When the bill takes effect, the District will be better able to monitor and improve conditions of confinement.
  • Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Amendment Act of 2022
    • The bill provides commonsense transparency and accountability measures, including around the public disclosure of serious, sustained misconduct records. 
  • Elections Modernization Amendment Act of 2022
    • The omnibus bill builds upon and expands the successful innovations made by the Board of Elections in the 2020 election cycle, including by sending all registered voters mail-in ballots and operating ballot drop boxes. These changes have made voting more convenient and increased voter turnout rates over the last two election cycles. 
  • Juneteenth History and Planning Commission Establishment Act of 2022
    • The bill establishes a volunteer commission to educate the public around the origin, history and meaning of Juneteenth, including planning activities and designing materials. 
  • Restoring Trust and Credibility to Forensic Sciences Amendment Act of 2022
    • The bill makes needed reforms to rightsize and ensure the long-term success of the District’s forensic sciences lab. As you know, this bill incorporates the legislative recommendations put forth by SNA International Inc. in December 2021. The District’s current public safety challenges demand a forensic science lab that is reliable, transparent, and credible. 

Thank you for your time and consideration of each of these recommendations. I look forward to working with you to craft a budget for the District that meets the important moment in which we find ourselves. 


Charles Allen
Ward 6 Councilmember
Chairperson, Committee on Transportation and the Environment
Chair, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

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