Fairfax officials dismayed by social service cuts

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Local,Virginia,Aubrey Whelan
Fairfax County's social services board faces a $9.4 million budget shortfall next year, and county officials said Tuesday they're concerned the board is already considering cutting programs.

The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board has instituted a hiring freeze and put developmentally delayed kids trying to get into the Infant and Toddler Connection program on a waiting list, and plans to lay off four temporary staffers.

Fairfax supervisors voted Tuesday to review the county's social services and to hold public hearings before making any further cuts.

The projected $9.4 million shortfall is a worst-case scenario for the social services board. But it would be in addition to an $8 million shortfall the board had this year in its $150 million budget.

The social services board is already identifying drastic cuts that would be necessary should its funding sources continue to dwindle, including reducing day programs for kids and closing mental health facilities.

Members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which set aside $4 million for the social programs in next year's budget, expressed frustration that it may not be enough.

"A huge issue is the fiscal responsibility. I am very, very concerned about how this happened over time," said Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross. "Rarely have I ever seen the board united in its unhappiness against an agency."

Community Services Board Director George Braunstein said his agency's financial troubles stem from lower insurance reimbursements and a steady decline in state and federal funding.

"What happened this year was that we ran into every barrier," he said. "Strategies like locating other funding, holding vacancies and delaying hiring -- this year most of those strategies didn't work."

Supervisors approved interim cost-cutting proposals Tuesday even while expressing reservations about further cuts. Some members said they didn't realize how dire the board's situation was.

"We've put the board through the ringer here when it's come forward saying, 'We have a problem,' " said Braddock Supervisor John Cook. "We didn't know that waiting lists were being created at the very exact moment that [budget] decisions were being made. Those choices should have been ours, but they weren't presented to us."

awhelan@washingtonexaminer.com

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