Reston government contractor Maximus Inc. said lower state tax revenue caused the company to fall short of Wall Street's expectations and its own projections for the fourth quarter.

The company earned $10.9 million (50 cents per share) in the three months ended Sept. 30, compared with $12.1 million (51 cents) in the same period of the previous year. Maximus's revenue for the quarter rose to $134.1 million, from $127.1 million a year ago, but it missed the company's earlier prediction for revenue of $136 million to $142 million for the period.

"The year-over-year decline is predominantly a function of the economic environment, where some clients at state levels were rethinking budget initiatives and in some cases growth did not materialize," Chief Financial Officer Richard A. Montoni said in a conference call yesterday.

For the year, Maximus earned $40.3 million ($1.73), compared with $36.2 million ($1.61) in 2001. Revenue in 2002 rose to $518.7 million, from $487.3 million the previous year. As of Sept. 30, the company had $95.1 million in cash and marketable securities.

David V. Mastran, president and chief executive of the company, said budget woes at the state level may "temper growth in the next quarter or so." He said the firm expects to earn 47 to 49 cents a share during the first quarter.

Shares of Maximus rose $2.12 to close at $27.45.