Broke D.C. Closes For Day To Save Money

TUESDAY, FEB. 28, 1995

The District of Columbia government shut down Monday.

There was no trash pickup, no street cleaning, no city business, no open recreation centers - services that have eroded and then have been peeled away like the skin of an onion.

To the district’s odious national image as violent and drug-riddled, add another adjective: broke.

Faced with a $722 million budget deficit and the possibility of running out of cash by May, the city gave municipal workers a day off - the first of 10 planned this year to save an aggregate of some $30 million in payroll costs.

That deficit is nearly $1,270 of red ink for each of Washington’s 570,000 residents.

But the more vital statistic is this: The nation’s capital employs 45,000 municipal workers, or about 1 out of every 12 residents.

No other city comes close to having such a “bloated and wasteful work force,” according to municipal finance expert James O. Gibson of the Urban Institute.

But this is just one difference between the nation’s capital and other major American cities.

Unlike New York, Philadelphia and other financially troubled cities, the district has no state government to help it absorb costly services such as health care, welfare and education, and no industries to add to a solid tax base.

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