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Supervisors: Loudoun County budget picture 'bad'

Loudoun County's budget outlook is getting worse, prompting officials to warn of looming employee layoffs and deep cuts to services.

Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge), chairman of the Board of Supervisors' budget planning committee, said the county is looking at "tremendously large reductions" in services caused by a 7 percent decline in the county's tax revenue. Foreclosures have not let up and the 30 percent of Loudoun County households that bring home less than $75,000 per year are getting hit hard, he said.

"The revenue situation its not getting better," Burton said. "It's still declining."

Some critics have accused Burton of living in the weeds, so to speak, and offering increasingly pessimistic visions of the county's budget future. The numbers offered up at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting are preliminary, budget officials say, and there's still three months let to go in the season.

But with three new schools and a new jail to fund, along with steep dropoffs in county tax revenue, the budget picture is not good, supervisors acknowledged.

So what happened to Loudoun, which is, literally, the wealthiest locality in the country? Burton gave one answer on Tuesday: the rich have been getting richer and the poor have been getting poorer, according to household income data over the past five years.

"You can draw all kinds of conclusions from that. You can say some of the poorer people have been forced out of the county," he said. "You can say older folks who didn't make as much money are passing away. But we have a substantial population that do not make large sums of money."

Ben Mays, Loudoun's deputy chief financial officer, said that it is likely next year's cuts would be more than $69 million for the county's 60,000-student school system and more than $50 million in reductions to county services.

If you look at the cuts that were left off the table during the county's last budget season, which would probably be included in next year's cut list, you're talking about a whole lot of changes.

Among the most notable casualties: the DARE program and community policing in western Loudoun; the Drug Court, sheriff's mall staffing, traffic safety and education programs; senior center meal sites; the Loudoun Youth Initiative; county satellite offices for treasurer and revenue offices; library operations on Fridays and Sundays; animal shelters on one day per week; and the virtual elimination of all Extension programs along with cuts to recycling dropoff centers and family services (not to mention nearly 300 county employee layoffs and severe cutbacks for schools).

"The impact of what we may have to do is so dramatic that we need to have a discussion on the policy impact of reducing the size of our government," Burton said.

By Derek Kravitz  |  October 20, 2009; 6:26 PM ET
Categories:  Loudoun County  
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