Saunders testifies on Office of Human Rights budget
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Saunders testifies on Office of Human Rights budget


COUNCILMEMBER VINCENT ORANGE, CHAIR
COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS
COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20004

PUBLIC OVERSIGHT HEARING
APRIL 6, 2005


RE: "Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Request for the Office of Human Rights"

PREPARED STATEMENT


Chairperson Orange and members of the Committee on Government Operations. My name is Kenneth L. Saunders and I am here today to present testimony on the Office of Human Rights fiscal year 2006 budget request.

For fiscal year 2006, the proposed budget for the Office of Human Rights is set at five million, thirty-one thousand, nine hundred and eighty dollars ($ 5,031,980.). This includes a base amount of $3,031,980.00 and an appeal amount of $2,000,000.00. The base amount represents the agency's allocation for fiscal year 2006 by the central budget office and the appeal specifically covers a federal grant that was not included in the original allocation. In the original amount of $3,031,980, the agency received an increase of $514,280. in federal funding and $4,148 in local funding. In short, the Agency's FY2006 request is established at $2,285,000 in local funds and $2,746,980.00 in federal funds. Over the past few weeks, we have been engaged in discussions with city officials regarding our FY2006 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. Further, it allows us to meet the requirements of the Language Access Act of 2004 - it provides the continued resources to address the cases we handle on an annual basis, and we have full federal funding to assist HUD in the administration and operation of the National Fair Housing Training Academy. 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 in our inventory and 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, fully meet the requirements of the Language Access Act.

How the Budget Is Constructed

The FY 2006 budget is comprised of $2,285,000 in local dollars and $2,746,980.00 in Federal dollars. The budget authorizes full funding for a total of 31 positions - 28 positions carried forward from FY2005 and 3 additional positions to be fully funded with federal funds. Two positions are included solely for the Language Access Act. As you know, OHR is the lead agency for this program and is required 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.

The FY2006 budget represents a total increase over FY2005 of $ 2,518,428.00, and almost all of it is attributable toward OHR's administrative and operational support for HUD's National Fair Housing Training Academy. Overall, here is how the budget is divided:

In addition to the federal funding we receive for the Academy, OHR also receives 2 additional federal grants. First, OHR's Fair Housing Office gets approximately $146,000 for handling cases that are related to housing discrimination and second, we get approximately $105,000 from the EEOC. OHR is awarded an amount of $500.00 per case from EEOC and this grant is based upon our completion of 200 cases. There is also an additional $5,000 for administration and training.

Let me now address OHR's performance goals that are tied to this budget. First, I am very pleased to report that for fiscal year 2004, OHR met, exceeded or significantly exceeded each of its Scorecard goals. We reduced the number of Aged cases in the Office; we reduced the total backlog; our productivity level increased significantly; and we reached more citizens through our outreach and education efforts than ever before. The Language Access program was also a very big success for us. Through our leadership and oversight, all District agencies identified in the Act met their respective requirements and I can assure you that our "Limited English Proficient" population is very aware and interested in the progress we make as a government in ensuring access to services to all District residents.

Our goals for FY2006 are as follows:

As I indicated earlier, I am confident that with this budget, we can accomplish the goals we have set for fiscal year 2006. 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 priorities of both the administration and the Council. I am thankful to the Mayor and City Administrator for their support of the Office of Human Rights and I am proud of the accomplishments we have achieved. But there is more work to be done. 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.


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