Budget Plan Would Cut Jobs, Add School Funds

By Michael Laris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Arlington County Manager Ron Carlee has proposed trimming government spending by nearly $12 million in the next fiscal year, a relatively modest rollback as other jurisdictions face severe shortfalls.

Still, the reduction stings some in a community where residents have become accustomed to plentiful services that expanded for years along with soaring home values.

About 100 county staff positions, 40 of which are now filled, would be eliminated in the $929.5 million spending plan Carlee outlined Saturday. Officials said they will try to help the 40 dislocated employees find vacant jobs in county government. This year's revised budget was $941.4 million.

"We're going to get a lot of advocates for the various programs that will be cut outlining all their reasons for keeping those services. That isn't, when you're in our position, fun," said County Board member Jay Fisette (D). He predicted "at least two more years of difficult times ahead."

Hearings on Carlee's proposal are set for late next month, with a board vote in April.

Because of rising costs, the county would have to spend $39 million more to maintain current services in the fiscal year that starts in July. Officials proposed $23.3 million in cuts and $15.7 million in higher tax and fee revenue to close that gap. The County Board is considering raising the real estate property tax rate as much as 3 cents, to 86.8 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Although total county spending would drop, school funding would rise slightly, to $352.4 million.

The cuts would hit broadly:

· Three libraries with comparatively few users -- Aurora Hills, Cherrydale and Glencarlyn -- would be open three days a week instead of six.

· An anti-mosquito program would be eliminated, and funding for setting up historic markers would be reduced.

· Staffing for child-care center inspections would be cut 40 percent, and fewer staff members would handle substance abuse cases.

· Two police positions assigned to patrol Clarendon area bars and restaurants would be cut.

"Arlington is positioned as well or better than any local government to deal with these economic times," Carlee wrote in a budget briefing. The proposal "represents serious 'belt-tightening.' It does not, however, represent a restructuring of government."

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