Fairfax County has devised a way of saving $38,000 and giving county employes a holiday present in the form of Christmas Eve off.

The County Board of Supervisors, relishing the role of Santa Claus, has decided to make Dec. 24 a full holiday this year for the 7,300 county workers.

In the past, the employes got only a half day off.

County budget watchers say it will save taxpayers $38,000 in heating costs to keep thermostats at 55 degrees for all four days encompassing a weekend, Christmas Eve and Christmas.

"It's as good an excuse as any," remarked Republican Supervisor Thomas M. Davis III of Mason District.

Some people might argue that that giving the workers an extra half day paid holiday would actually cost those same taxpayers $300,000.

But that didn't keep the supervisors from playing Santa. "I'm strongly in favor of the holiday," said Davis.

Other area government workers, including federal employes, have not fared as well. The federal government is sticking to what even official spokesmen are calling "The Grinch Policy."

Federal employes won't be given a paid holiday on Dec. 24, but officials have encouraged supervisors to grant liberal vacation leave to workers and to allow those employes who do show up on the job to leave two or three hours early, said Mark Tapscott, a spokesman for the federal Office of Personnel Management.

And there are Grinches in some local governments, too. Christmas Eve is no holiday for employes of the District of Columbia, Montgomery County or Prince George's County, although Alexandria and Arlington workers will have the day off.

Why is Uncle Sam playing the Scrooge?

"It's called a $200 billion deficit," said Tapscott.