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Budget Recommendation: Cut Programs, Find Efficiencies

At times, the preliminary budget recommendations from Arlington’s Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission sound more like something you’d hear on CNBC than at a county board meeting. While recommending that next year’s estimated $25-$35 million budget shortfall be made up by a 50-50 combination of spending cuts and tax increases, the commission says that longer-term changes might be necessary.

“The County may have to make structural changes to accommodate continued significant financial challenges,” the commission said in a three-page report to the county board. “Those changes may include improved efficiencies, outsourcing (to realize improved efficiencies and reduced labor costs) and changes in service levels.”

FAAC recommends that the board “require departments to identify and implement operational efficiency improvements,” and “reduce or eliminate funding for programs that are no longer needed, are not effective, or are no longer affordable.”

The recommendations come at a time when the county will be taking on new operating expenses as a result of several major capital projects. Those projects include the Mary Marshall Assisted Living Residence, Artisphere (which opens this week) and the Columbia Pike revitalization project (which includes the assumption of road maintenance costs from the state).

The commission praised the board for balancing priorities during recent budget cycles, calling the past three budgets “fiscally prudent and responsive to pressing human service needs.”

“Arlington has been fiscally fortunate in comparison to many jurisdictions, in part because of a legacy of strong planning and prudent investments,” the report concludes. “However, the fiscal picture remains uncertain, and we believe that the recommendations contained in this report may provide additional options for the Board to consider in the development of the FY 2012 budget.”

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