Late February at the John A. Wilson Building is a tough time to be a spreadsheet. That’s because City Administrator Dan Tangherlini and his budget people are crunching the living daylights out of the District’s numbers from early in the morning till late at night, trying to get a document that’ll pass muster at the D.C. Council.

On this particular day, Tangherlini is doing the yeoman’s job of agency budget reviews. Meaning that directors and top staff of the city’s various departments are making the trek to the 5th floor CapStat room in the Wilson Building, the better to talk about something called the “baseline” with Dan Tan.

Earlier today, Dan Tan and his budget director, Will Singer, sat down with the people from D.C.’s Office of Contracting and Procurement. They allowed Loose Lips columnist Mike DeBonis to sit in for the opening (read: generic) comments. Singer said something trenchant: “This really is the most challenging budget year for the District since the control board…We’ve asked every agency to look deep inside the baseline for possible savings.”

What on earth is a baseline? It’s the amount of money needed to maintain the level of services offered in the past budget year. This year, the mayor’s people ordered agencies to roll back the baseline. More with less, in other words.

Before the parties got into any real discussions, they kicked Loose Lips out of the room.

Reporting by Mike DeBonis