Councilmember Robert White Statement on Mayor’s FY2025 Budget Proposal

As we gather for this critical budget hearing, I want to begin by acknowledging the concerns that are weighing heavily on the minds of our residents. As we sit here in this chamber, there are families across our city facing tough decisions at their kitchen tables—decisions about how to pay rent, worries about their kids’ school losing teachers, and concerns about putting food on the table as essential support dwindles.

We’re facing a somber reality with our budget, and it’s essential to recognize that. But it’s equally crucial to acknowledge that this year presents us with the largest budget in DC’s history. This contrast is stark, and it demands our attention and action.

Over the past twenty-four years, our budget has grown every single year, including a staggering 55% budget increase during Mayor Bowser’s tenure. With a budget growth of $7 billion and adding 10,000 employees over the last 10 years, it’s perplexing that we’re still grappling with many of the same challenges we faced 10 years ago.

I’m looking at how much money we’re spending, and how much the government has grown, and I just don’t see what problems we’ve solved with all of that. This begs the question: where is the breakdown occurring? The problem clearly is not a lack of money.

Let me illustrate with a real example.

Cafini, a single parent with a young child recently got an eviction notice from the landlord. They reached out to the city for help. Emergency Rental Assistance costs $6,000. But Cafini didn’t get that. They were told that they couldn’t get help until they were homeless. So, Cafini and their child ended up in a shelter, costing the city about $80,000 a year. This isn’t just financial waste. It’s a human tragedy.

Similarly, our education system illustrates another aspect of this issue. Despite the District spending an average of $24,000 per student, our neighbor Montgomery County, MD, achieves a 15% higher graduation rate while spending $6,500 less per student. With 53,000 students in DC public schools, this translates to a staggering $345M. $345M that could be used for more teachers, after-school and summer programs, and housing.  

These examples exist across the government- and they highlight systemic inefficiencies that mere oversight hearings won’t rectify. We need fundamental reforms embedded in our budgeting process to identify and address wasteful spending.

The mayor is proposing four regressive tax increases. How can we ask residents for more without demonstrating concrete plans to eliminate wasteful spending and deliver tangible improvements? In this budget, we have to focus on results so that every dollar spent results in maximum value to our community. To achieve this, we need Budget Accountability reforms. The Budget Accountability reforms we need include (1) a comprehensive review of spending across the entire government to root out waste and inefficiencies, freeing up resources to invest in critical programs and services (2) Accountability-based budgeting to ensure that agencies are laser-focused on achieving clear specific goals that directly impact the lives of our residents. And (3) Transparent budgeting to provide the public and the Council with a clear view of how all their tax dollars are being utilized. The Council must make these reforms in the budget.

Historic revenues have not solved problems. That means we have to commit to bold and decisive action. We have to envision a city where every child receives a quality education, where every family has a safe and affordable place to call home, and where every resident feels safe and can access the support and resources they need to thrive. Residents, your role in this is to come to budget hearings and talk about programs that are or are not working. I’m seeing a lot of this in the Housing Committee. The time for transformative change is now, and together, we can build a brighter future for our city and its residents.

Let's Stay in Touch!

Sign up for info and updates from Councilmember Robert White

Skip to content