District Digest: $400 million extra—D.C. on that cash money flow

MoneyYour paper falls slow like confetti, mines a steady grow
District officials are set to announce a budget surplus of as much as $400 million from the fiscal year of 2012, due to improving economic conditions.The best estimates suggest that $200 million of the surplus comes from extra revenue collected last year, and $100 million of it comes from under-spending on the part of government agencies. Washington City Paper compiled a list on changes in infrastructure and spending, offering some examples of what may be saving D.C. money.

Some view the surplus as a sign that D.C. is overreaching in its revenue collection and call for reduction in taxes and traffic violation costs. Others, however, say that the excess money would be best spent on alleviating poverty in the city. Despite the increasing median income in the District, the poverty rate for D.C. children has sat, unwavering, at 30 percent for the past three years.

Mayor Vincent Gray, it seems, plans to save the money and buildup a reserve of cash, in case the city needs it in the coming months.

However, worrying about the city’s short-term fiscal health does not make much sense. Not only is this the second year in a row that D.C. has posted a surplus, but predictions for the start of 2013 look just as good as the last two years, despite the fact that the District nears its debt cap.

“Our projections are showing the same trends and forces that drove unexpected revenues in ’12 are going to be in play in ’13,” said a senior Gray administration official to the Post. “With our projections, we can hold the line about being fiscally responsible now, and use new money in ’13 to make some new social investments.”

D.C. ranked second best city for job seekers
Using data from the past few years, the personal finance site NerdWallet ranked Washington, D.C. second only to Austin, Texas for job-seekers.

Forbes explained that the list was made by comparing the “population growth between 2010 and 2011 as an indication of overall business growth, the local unemployment rate, the median income of residents, and the cost of living” of the 26 most-populated cities in America.

Stephanie Wei, VP of Financial Literacy at NerdWallet, noted the importance of considering an area’s cost of living. Cities like New York may have extremely high median incomes but cost proportionally more to live in.

“At the end of the day, what really matters is your net paycheck,” Wei told Forbes. “You can’t assume the biggest city is the best.”

NerdWallet noted D.C.’s high median income and population growth as the best indicators of its financial growth and potential. Population growth was 2.7 percent between 2010-2011, and median income is $43,993. However, high cost of living, $1,823 for median rent, and 10.2 percent unemployment, are not promising.

Not all cabs will have credit cards
A city mandate for all taxicabs to accept credit cards has been postponed until late April.

The mandate originated when Mayor Gray’s idea of having “brand-new, state-of-the-art, credit-card-accepting smart meters” fell through.

The plan was to have the smart meters installed by inauguration, but the Contract Appeals Board ruled that the winning bid to install the smart meters contained “pervasive improprieties.”

The smart meter project was put on hold, but Gray’s administration decided that all cabs would at least be required to accept credit cards by March 30.

According to D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron M. Linton, however, the cabs needed more time to meet the mandate.

“[We’re] not getting any blow-back on the general idea of mandating credit-card acceptance,” he said. “We’re getting some blow-back in terms of pressure in meeting that [March 30] date.”

Photo: Andrew Magill via Flickr

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