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Col. KELLER. For rental purposes, I have not observed many houses over the District. There are many operations involving the construction of small dwellings.
Mr. Byrns. I know that there is a great deal of building going on.
Col. KELLER. There are few of the dwellings for rent; they are for sale.
The CHAIRMAN. In 1921 the appropriation was $100,000 ?
Col. KELLER. Yes, sir. We can, of course, live within the appropriation by simply saying that we can not make the connections. That is the only alternative.
Mr. Sisson. How much more does it cost than you get back?
Col. KELLER. About 37 per cent more. We get back approximately 63 per cent.
The CHAIRMAN. Why do you not get it all?
Col. KELLER. Because the law you passed permits us to charge $1.50 a front foot only. It used to be $1.
Mr. Sisson. That was due to the increased cost of material and labor. I should say without hesitation that the amount ought to be raised so as to return the exact amount.
The CHAIRMAN. The total cost should be reimbursed.
Mr. Sisson. But that is not the fault of the commissioners at all, because there is limit.
Col. KELLER. We have kept within our appropriation so far as nearly as we can figure out, but the applications are pouring in and we see no way of providing the sewer connections unless we get more money.
Mr. Sisson. The expenditures under this item are largely dependent upon the demands made upon you? Col. KELLER. Altogether.
Mr. Sisson. You have the right to require connections to be made and to control them, but where a request is made of you under the law you have to do the work and then make the assessment, so it is not an appropriation which you can absolutely control?
Col. KELLER. No, sir; but we have controlled it so far. We have spent approximately half of our appropriation during the first six months, but we have so many applications for sewer service that in order to grant them reasonably promptly we will need $32,000 additional.
GENERAL SUPPLIES, ETC.
The CHAIRMAN. What about this item, "Electrical department," on page 14, for which you are asking $5,500 ?
Col. KELLER. We are maintaining more telephones than before. The CHAIRMAN. Why more!
Col. KELLER. Because the District service is constantly growing as we build new schoolhouses.
The CHAIRMAN. How many new schoolhouses did you build last year?
Col. KELLER. I can not say accurately.
The CHAIRMAN. How much does a telephone in one of these schools cost?
Col. KELLER. We pay 50 cents a year actually for the instrument, but we have to extend the service and pay for the messages.
It is based on the number of (alls. We have a schedule. Then, we have a certain number of trunk lines.
The CHAIRMAN. You have not any more telephones than you had before?
Col. KELLER. We have a few more and consequently the message toll gradually grows.
The CHAIRMAN. Does not the city government get a telephone rate lower than given to the private party?
Col. KELLER. No, sir. It is in accordance with the published schedule.
The CHAIRMAN. Why does not the city get a lower rate?
Col. KELLER. Because the people of the city that put in the telephone system act as a public corporation.
Mr. Sisson. What the chairman means is that they get the use of the streets not only for laying the mains but for the use of the mains in the streets.
Col. KELLER. They pay 4 per cent annual tas upon the gross receipts.
The CHAIRMAN. Everybody pays a tax.
Col. KELLER. They pay a further tax in addition upon their real property.
The C'HAIRMAX. Everybody pays that tax. Take the Chicago Street Railway Co., for example, up to the period of the war you could ride 30 miles for five cents, transfer anywhere you wanted to, on any line you wanted to, and be carried for five cents 30 miles. For the privilege of operating the street cars they paid 55 per cent of their net receipts into the treasury of the city. It would seem to me that the Public Utilities Commission had the power at least to regulate the cost of the telephone service to the city government and they ought to do it.
Mr. Sisson. The principal value attached to the street railway in Chicago, since the chairman has mentioned it, is the street use, and they admit that 55 per cent is about correct, and many of the cities require them to give them a certain amount of tolls for use of the officials of the city.
The CHAIRMAN. Does anybody use these telephones except on official business?
Col. KELLER. It is forbidden, and, so far as I know, it is not done. I might add, in regard to this franchise situation and special rates to the city, that we are applying the law as we find it. I am familiar with the Chicago telephone situation, because I lived there for many years, and I might say that the arrangement there was the result of the bankruptcy of several companies and their reorganization.
The CHAIRMAN. There was no bankruptcy about it.
Col. KELLER. It amounted to that. Of course, we can not eat our cake and have it too, and the public pays it. Whether it is paid directly or indirectly does not make any difference.
The CHAIRMAN. It does not deduct much from their return to give the municipality a special rate. I understand that they are not suffering.
Col. KELLER. They earned nothing at all during the two years of the war, and last year they earned less than 6 per cent upon a very conservative valuation.
Mr. BYRNs. I notice from the newspaper that one company here is earning 10.46 per cent upon its investment.
Col. KELLER. That is one of the street railway companies.
Mr. BYRNs. I think that is a perfect outrage upon the people of the District.
Col. KELLER. The other company makes less than 6 per cent.
Mr. BYRNs. But why should the people be taxed to maintain the other company in such earnings as that? I think it is perfectly outrageous.
Col. KELLER. We are treating the street railways here exactly as the Interstate Commerce Commission regards the railroad situation of the country as a whole, and on the basis of the valuation of the property of the two street railway companies, which they say is less than the proper value, the earnings would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 per cent, and that during the past year could not, in my opinion, be justly regarded as an excessive rate of return.
Mr. Byrns. I do not think that Congress or the Public Utilities Commission could ever be justified, under any law passed by Congress, to absolutely fix a charge by law, which must be met by the people who use the street cars, by people who can not afford automobiles, and which will result in a dividend of 10.46 per cent on the stock of a street railway company.
Mr. Sisson. Especially in view of the cost of operation charges that are made, and which I do not think could be justified anywhere in the world. Of course, there is no use in going into that now, although we did have some considerable controversy over the costaccounting methods that they adopted.
DRAINAGE OF LOTS.
The CHAIRMAX. Your next item is, on page 18, for the drainage of lots in the District of Columbia.
Col. KELLER. We are asking for $1,000 more for the drainage of lots. That is not an actual deficiency, but it is a calculated deficiency if we do the normal amount of work of that sort. I want to say with reference to this appropriation that we will live within the appropriation as it is, but as it is an item in the public's interest and for the benefit of the public health, and is reimbursible, we would like to have this additional amount. The total costs are assessed back on the property, and we would like to have a little more money to use in case of necessity.
The CHAIRMAN. The plan of trying to restore original estimates in deficiency bills is one that is not going to be encouraged. I am not in favor of it. I am not in favor of having anybody come back here and ask to have original estimates restored. When the law making the appropriation is enacted, that is the law.
Col. KELLER. We have observed the law. I am simply explaining why it might be desirable to have another $1,000. If we do not get it, we will, of course, stay within the appropriation, although we may have to stop doing this kind of work.
Mr. Sisson. What is the status of the appropriation?
Col. KELLER. We apportion it, but the work has overrun the original limits.
The CHAIRMAN. But you will live within the appropriation?
Col. KELLER. There is another item in the nature of a supplemental estimate. We have an estimated deficiency of $30,000 in the streetcleaning appropriation. That is based upon the removal of snow during the recent snowstorm. It cost us $30,000 for extra work at that time.
Mr. Sisson. Where was it done?
Col. KELLER. All over the city, and, in my opinion, considering the circumstances, it was very well done.
The CHAIRMAN. I did not see any evidence of where it was done, except around the Willard.
Col. KELLER. We cleaned the entire business section of the city and all of Pennsylvania Avenue. We cleaned every busy street in the city of Washington. It was slow work, because we had difficulty in getting labor. We could not command labor, and they would not come out in the bad weather. As they would come out we expanded the force. It would have been better if we had had a permanent force with which to do the work.
The CHAIRMAN. The cost was $30,000.
Mr. Sisson. I do not know that that is a proper thing to allow here. However, I realize that as long as there is a Federal Treasury these demands will be made. In most of the cities every man is required to sweep in front of his own door. That is the reason why, as Josephus said, Jerusalem was the cleanest city in the world because every man was required to clean in front of his own home.
Col. KELLER. We are forbidden to require citizens here to do anything of that sort. The courts have upset the law and our ordinances in which we required citizens to clean in front of their homes.
Mr. Sisson. I think that Congress is, perhaps, as much to blame as you are in that regard. I think the law ought to be so that you gentlemen could make ordinances that would cover emergencies like · the recent heavy snowstorm.
Col. KELLER. So far as the work done was concerned, it was done . under great difficulties. It was an unprecedented storm, and we had great difficulty in getting people out to assist.
The (CHAIRMAN. That estimate is coming up?
The CHAIRMAN. It shows the details, with the number of people employed and the wages paid?
Col. KELLER. Yes, sir; in the customary way.
The CHAIRMAN. Of course, that is one of the things that ought to be done. There is no question about that.
Col. KELLER. I had no doubt about it in my own mind, but the difficulty was to get men to do the work. They sat around their stoves and toasted their toes and would not come out to work. I did not want to boost the price of labor. In New York they paid $5
The "CHAIRMAX. What did you pay?
Col. KELLER. $2.80 per day. I did not want to raise the price of that labor.
ALLOWANCES TO PRINCIPALS.
The CHAIRMAN. You have a deficiency estimate for 1921 of $591.75 for allowance to principals of grade-school buildings, etc. Please explain that.
Dr. BALLOU. This item is to pay principals of grade-school buildings in accordance with the law or $30 per year session room pay. The increase in attendance and the increase in the number of classes calls for an increase in the amount required to meet the obligations. The sum of $591.75 for 1921 is now owing to those teachers.
The CHAIRMAN. You were unable to ascertain that at the time?
Dr. BALLOU. We were unable to estimate how many additional classes there would be and we have been encouraged by the House Appropriations Committee not to ask for more than in actually sure to be needed in this particular item.
Mr. Sisson. For not more than you are reasonably sure will be needed ?
Dr. Ballou. Yes, sir; not more than we are reasonably sure will be needed. This is a computed item and is strictly in accordance with law. We do not estimate more than we are reasonably sure we will need.
The CHAIRMAN. Why did you not ascertain this sooner?
Dr. BALLOU. This was ascertained last summer or at least May or June. It can not be absolutely ascertained until practically at the end of the school year.
The CHAIRMAN. The item for 1922 is $590 ?
Dr. Ballou. The item for 1922 is not an actual deficiency at this moment, but there will'undoubtedly be that deficiency at the end of this year. Unless the committee appropriates for the item now this same group of persons will not be paid for their work at the end of this school year.
The CHAIRMAN. This is an obligation vou can not control?