Fairfax official warns of potential budget woes

Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

A top Fairfax County official is again urging county agencies to prepare for potential budget woes that could result from a budget dispute in Congress and an anemic residential real estate market.

In an memo sent Thursday, County Executive Ed Long told county employees he "didn't want there to be any misconception that everything was fine and we weren't dealing with any problems." The county needs to plan now to deal with a budget shortfall of as much as $100 million a year over the next three years, he wrote.

Long, who has already recommended that all county agencies find ways to cut their budgets by 5 percent over the next two years to cope with shrinking revenue, suggested county leaders begin working on budgets for 2014 and 2015 so "no surprises come next spring when all [of a] sudden our revenue is not where we want it to be."

Long issued the warning, in part, because of fears that an unresolved deficit-reduction dispute on Capitol Hill that could cut $1 trillion in federal spending, including $500 million from the Pentagon's budget, and devastate Northern Virginia's government-dependent economy. Those cuts will start to kick in in January unless Congress can strike a deal to halt them. Long also cited real estate data that shows the current market to be "pretty flat," a blow to county coffers that rely on real estate taxes for 60 percent of its revenues.

"Trust me, this is a revenue problem," Long wrote. "We simply are not generating the revenues we need to sustain [any] new growth in county programs."

Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield, said Long's announcement should come as no surprise. The memo, Herrity said, is just further proof that there are "hard times ahead."

"We're at the point now where we can't continue asking county employees to do more with less," Herrity said. "We ought to be having discussions among ourselves to find a way to take positive actions. If we wait, we won't have any room to act."

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