DC government agencies are right now working on their budgets for FY 2020 (October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020). What this means for organizations, communities, and individuals is that it’s open season for advocacy with executive branch agencies. But be quick about it. The first submission deadline is Wednesday, October 31 (Tier 1 agencies) and the last is Friday, November 16 (Tier 3 agencies), with a few deadlines to be determined.
Housing Production Trust Fund Subsidy, for example, is a Tier 1 agency. Tier 2 agencies include Office of the Tenant Advocate and the Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity. Tier 1 and 2 agencies tend to be small and/or less complex. Tier 3 agencies are the biggest and might be thought of as the most consequential to residents. Department of Energy and Environment, Department of Health, and Department of Housing and Community Development are several examples. The OBP document Agency Tier Listing (.xlsx) has the details.
Advocacy can take many forms
You can, for example, meet with program and senior agency staff to share your recommendations for budget and budget-related policy changes. You can also use social media to share your message with agency staff.
One useful tool is the written budget recommendation. Created in the the late 1990s, budget recommendations contain information agencies need to make decisions and which can easily be transformed into a budget enhancement. Elements are:
Recommendation—Specify the dollar amount, agency, and program
Current status of funding—Report current funding, waiting lists/other demand measures, and funding sources if known
Budget implications—Identify where savings might occur in another part of the budget or even in another agency’s budget, how a short-term increased spend may save money in later years
Justification—Mention DC government plans, legislation supported by the mayor, court orders, federal funding (decreases, in particular), along with a brief mention of relevant research on the topic
What is the budget development process?
DC’s budget development process has a lot of moving parts. In the executive branch, the Office of Budget and Planning (OBP) in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) is responsible for preparing, monitoring, analyzing, and executing “the District government’s budget, including operating, capital and enterprise funds. . .”
The preparation starts with the budget manual. It’s made up of numerous parts, from directions for writing the narrative to instructions for intra-District agreements. The sections of the budget manual—which are only available here—are: