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Saunders testifies on budget for Office of Human Rights
TESTIMONY OF KENNETH SAUNDERS
DIRECTOR, D.C. OFFICE OF HUMAN RIGHTS
DELIVERED BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
LATINO AFFAIRS AND PROPERTY MANAGEMENT
April 5, 2004
Chairperson Graham and members of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, Latino Affairs and Property Management. I am here today to present testimony on the Office of Human Rights fiscal year 2005 budget request.
For fiscal year 2005, the proposed budget for the Office of Human Rights is two million, five hundred and thirteen thousand, five hundred and fifty two dollars ($ 2,513,552). This amount represents an increase of $622,000. or 32.9% over our FY2004 allocation. Over the past few weeks, we have been engaged in discussions with city officials regarding our ’05 request, and I am pleased to report that the funding approved by this administration, fully provides the resources to achieve the objectives we have established and further, it allows us to meet the requirements of the Language Access Act of 2004. With this budget, I firmly believe that the Office of Human Rights will continue to make improvements in our internal operations such as reducing the number of aged cases, expediting the time it takes for a case to be adjudicated; broaden our public awareness campaigns and increase our training opportunities for District agencies and the private sector; and we will actually be in the second year of implementing the requirements of the Language Access Act.
How the Budget Is Constructed
The FY 2005 budget is comprised of $2,281,000 in local dollars and $233,000 in Federal dollars. The budget also authorizes full funding for a total of 27 positions - 25 positions that are currently occupied, and 2 additional positions to meet the requirements of the Language Access Act. The Act requires that OHR designate a Language Access Program Director to provide coordination and technical assistance to all covered entities, to monitor plans and ensure compliance with the Act, to supervise the Language Access Coordinators located within District agencies, and to represent the Executive branch in making reports to the City Council. We have also added an administrative position to provide support and assistance to the Language Access program.
Regarding the increase that is reflected in our budget, here is how it is accounted for:
- $300,000 is added for the Language Access Act.
- $140,559 is added to correct the allocation for Salaries.
- $74,916 represents the increase in Fixed Costs, such as rent and utilities, and
- $117,700 is a correction to the Federal amount allocated to this office. The total Federal amount of $232,700 is comprised of $127,700 from HUD and $105,000 from EEOC.
The $140,559 mentioned above represents the increase required to fully fund all positions that were occupied at the beginning of fiscal year 2004. In the analysis we presented during the budget process, we demonstrated that all positions which were authorized, were not fully funded. As you know, in fiscal year 2003, this Office was authorized a ceiling of 33 positions and in fiscal year, it was authorized 28 positions. However, the funding allocated for these positions were insufficient, thereby creating “unfunded” positions. When I came on board and began filling the positions that were authorized, we discovered that a correction should be made to our baseline amount for salaries. The administration supported our claim and corrected the amount allocated for salaries.
Regarding the Fixed Costs increase of $74,916, this amount is merely passed on to us from the Office of Property Management. The CFO can address this in greater detail if you so wish.
The $117,700 increase in Federal dollars actually represents an adjustment to the amount we receive. In fiscal year 2004, the amount booked to our budget is $115,000, however, this amount should be $232,700. It will be corrected in FY2004 and carried forward to FY2005.
Before I close, I would like to highlight some of the accomplishments and initiatives currently taking place at the Office of Human Rights:
- Regarding the Language Access Act, we have already been engaged in discussions with OLA, API and other agencies regarding the implementation of this Act. The Position Description for the Language Access Director has been written and is with DCOP for classification and posting. We have also been in contact with the Director for Equal Access at the City of Oakland, CA where a similar program has already been instituted, to learn of the challenges and pitfalls, so we may not encounter similar problems in our implementation.
- For the first 6 months of this fiscal year, we have already realized $715,193 in settlements through our mediation efforts.
- We have already completed a series of training sessions as well as utilized our staff to conduct testing of taxicab services in the District.
- Our team of Investigators has completed both EEOC Investigative Training and Fair Housing Training.
- Beginning April 12, 2004, staff from the Office of Human Rights, Asian and Pacific Islander, Office of Latino Affairs and the Executive Office of the Mayor will be attending 40 hours of certified Mediation Training to be conducted by the Center for Mediation at the Key Bridge Foundation.
- We are on track to provide Diversity and EEOC training to approximately 3,000 District employees.
- I’m pleased to report that Georgetown University School of Law has already received some cases that are before the Commission and are reviewing them. As you know, Georgetown has agreed to provide legal representation to complainants who cannot afford an attorney and will be doing so on a pro bono basis.
- The Office of Corporation Counsel has also agreed to represents complainants whose cases are before the Commission. We are still working out the details and expect an agreement to be finalized soon.
- The annual Fair Housing symposium is scheduled for April 20, 2004 at the Metro Center Marriott, with key speakers from the private sector and HUD.
- In my last appearance before you, I indicated that we have applied for additional HUD funding in the amount of $69,000. We recently learned that our application was successful and we expect to receive these funds sometime in the near future.
- And finally, we have been in negotiations with HUD to establish Housing Institute in the District of Columbia. HUD intends to establish this institute at Howard University, and will use the DC Office of Human Rights as the conduit for expenditure of these funds, and to oversee and report on the activities of the Institute. While we are still finalizing the details of this agreement, indications are that funding will approach approximately $1 million in the first year and increase to approximately $2.5 in out years. HUD anticipates that this initiative will be about 4 years, and may be extended based upon its success and continues appropriation from Congress.
As I indicated earlier, I am confident that we can accomplish the goals we have set for Fiscal Year 2005. While I’m sure that additional resources can further enhance both our office as well as the Commission, I am keenly aware of the fiscal challenges facing the District. I am thankful to the Mayor for the increases we have been afforded. We will continue to examine ways to improve our overall operation and work closely with the CFO to utilize our budget prudently and effectively.
Thank you for this opportunity and I am now prepared to answer any questions that you may have.