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Loudoun Faces Grim Budget Forecast

Dire budget forecasts in Loudoun County could force one of the wealthiest localities in Northern Virginia to slash its expenses for its upcoming fiscal year, a move that could constrain the county's 57,000-student school system.

The budget predictions are to be laid out Wednesday at a county Board of Supervisors meeting (9 a.m., 1 Harrison Street SE, Leesburg) but county officials already have indicated that deep cuts are likely and might come from Loudoun County Public Schools, which receives 70 percent of the county budget, or about $762 million.

"It's the biggest part of our budget, and we've been discussing cuts for years -- but with the forecast being like it is, we may have to go further," said Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge), chairman of the Finance, Government Services and Operations Committee.

Loudoun County Public Schools officials have said its burgeoning student population and comparatively low funding-per-pupil ratio (the district spent about $12,898 per student last year, about $440 less than Fairfax) means it can't afford to cut services.
Like the rest of Northern Virginia, budget officials in Loudoun are placing blame on decreased county commercial assessments, which are expected to continue to fall next year.

"We're all anxious about the commercial assessment numbers," said Ben Mays, Loudoun County's deputy budget director. "On the whole, we've dealt with the residential sector but I think everyone expects that its the commerical sector that's the other shoe that's going to drop."

The county has also exhausted its federal stimulus money, is unable to refinance its bonds and is projecting another lean year for state appropriations.

Loudoun County is also expected to stretch out its four-year Capital Improvement Program, which finances everything from new schools, courts, fire and rescue stations and homeless shelters to the county's $240 million contribution to the Dulles Metrorail project, to six years to deal with anticipated budget shortfalls.

By Derek Kravitz  |  September 1, 2009; 6:20 PM ET
Categories:  Derek Kravitz , Loudoun County  
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