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Five hundred million is a number so round—resting halfway between zero and 1 billion—that it’s a convenient accounting figure. It’s the number of dollars in the U.S. Congress’s initial appropriation to finance the Civil War. It’s the maximum value of a contract awarded to construction firm Contrack International for work done in Afghanistan. Most recently, it’s about the number city officials are tossing about for a should-be-old-school-quaint ballpark that the city will build on the shores of the Anacostia river in Southeast. But before the District spends this substantial hunk of dough on a stadium, maybe it should look at some other uses for its taxpayers’ $500 million.

Item: Average D.C. public-school teacher’s salary

Cost: $64,029 per year

What $500 Million Will Get You: About 7,809 extra teachers for a year

Item: Street sweeper

Cost: About $100,000

What $500 Million Will Get You: About 5,000 sweepers

Item: Salt to melt ice on wintry roads

Cost: About $480,000 a winter

What $500 Million Will Get You: About 1,042 reasonably safe winters

Item: Renovation of Congress

Heights Recreation Center basketball and tennis courts

Cost: $300,000

What $500 Million Will Get You: About 1,667 better places to play ball

Item: Department of Public Works annual budget

Cost: Roughly $105 million

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What $500 Million Will Get You: About five extra years of top-notch trash collection

Item: City Museum operating budget

Cost: $2.3 million (fiscal 2004)

What $500 Million Will Get You: About 217 more years of such exhibitions as “Chinatown: Place or People?”

Item: The lobbying services of Patton Boggs LLP

Cost: $450 per hour (average)

What $500 Million Will Get You: One partner, working on D.C. statehood 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for about 254 years

Item: Arlington County’s total property-tax assessment

Cost: Roughly $40 billion (2001)

What $500 Million Will Get You: About 1.2 percent of what should belong entirely to the District

Item: Seven-member ANC budget

Cost: $20,000 (typical)

What $500 Million Will Get You: 25,000 years of bickering

Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Emily Flake.