Arlington projects $10 million shortfall, must cut services

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Local,Taryn Luntz
Arlington County officials ordered an immediate hiring freeze and budget cuts after projecting a $10 million budget shortfall amid declining property and sales tax revenues.

The shortfall, which represents 1.6 percent of the county’s operations budget, must be recovered through slashing employee discretionary spending and cutting nonessential city services, County Manager Ron Carlee said.

“Some programs and service levels valued by the community will not be affordable in these times of retrenchment,” Carlee said in a memo to county employees last week.

Details about the elimination of discretionary spending, a category that includes travel expenses and office supplies among other items, will be released over the next two weeks, Carlee said.

Details about reductions in services may take longer to emerge because county staff must conduct a comprehensive review, Arlington spokeswoman Diana Sun said.


“We’re fortunate we’re not as in bad of shape as some folks, but it certainly is serious, and we’re taking it seriously,” she said.

Jurisdictions throughout the Washington area have recently announced budget gaps, some severe, as the economy continues to falter.

Arlington’s shortfall stems from a reduction in sales tax receipts and from a projected dip in property tax revenues as the housing market founders, county finance director Mark Schwartz said last month.

The county’s hotel tax revenues remain healthy, he said.

Arlington’s fiscal 2009 budget, adopted in April, included a 5.7 percent increase from the 2008 budget and a 3-cent property tax increase.

Two cents of the 3-cent property tax increase was allotted to fund necessary changes to the county’s retirement and health benefits programs and 1 cent was dedicated to rebuilding Arlington’s crumbling stormwater drainage system.
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