Updated Mar 16, 2022 - News

Bowser's 2023 budget calls for increase in police and new schools

Mayor Muriel Bowser stands before a podium with her cabinet behind her

Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks to reporters after unveiling her budget. Photo: Cuneyt Dil/Axios

Mayor Muriel Bowser is proposing a $19.5 billion budget that would increase the police force by more than 400 officers over nine years, fund school campus renovations, reduce homelessness, and expand recreation programs.

Why it matters: Bowser's fiscal 2023 budget released Wednesday aims to "make up for lost time and opportunities" as the city financially rebounds from the pandemic.

What they're saying: "Because of our careful management, we are in pretty good shape" economically, Bowser told reporters, adding, "there's absolutely no reason to raise taxes."

  • But, but, but: Office vacancies and empty storefronts are pinching the District's revenues. The mayor warns that dropping commercial property values would shrink the tax base, possibly leading to cuts in future budgets if the city's downtown doesn't roar back to life.

Details: The plan would bring the Metropolitan Police Department to 4,000 officers, with an increase of about 36 new officers in the first year, after accounting for retirements. The mayor has called for a mix of traditional policing and investments in social services to battle a rise in violent crime.

  • The plan invests a record $500 million to fund new affordable housing units and preserve existing ones. It also proposes $120 million for rent and utility assistance over two years, and envisions a new $10 million fund to help Black residents become homeowners.
  • Over six years, $2.5 billion would fund the modernization of school campuses. There are funds to begin planning a new middle school in Shaw and a 1,000-student high school in Palisades to alleviate overcrowding at Wilson High School.

On homelessness, the mayor's budget would invest $31 million to add 500 permanent housing units for individuals, 260 units for families, and 10 units for youth.

  • Officials hope to decrease the number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, to match gains on reducing the family homeless population.

The budget plan would triple the number of traffic enforcement cameras — part of $500 million set aside to address traffic fatalities.

  • That funding would cover new traffic calming measures, over 100 full-time school crossing guards and traffic control officers, and expand towing and vehicle booting operations.
  • The plan also funds the construction of 10 miles of protected bicycle lanes per year.

Between the lines: The proposal does not help build a new football stadium at the RFK site.

  • Instead, $60 million is budgeted for an indoor track and field sports complex and $18.5 million to build pedestrian and bicycle bridges connecting Kingman and Heritage islands to each side of the Anacostia River.

Of note: The plan dedicates $10 million to reinvigorate tourism.

  • There is $750,000 proposed to pay musicians to perform on public streets, and $100,000 for a Cherry Blossom bus tour to promote the annual spring festival.

What's next: Lawmakers will dig through the budget books after the full proposal is delivered by Friday.


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