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Memo: County Government Job Cuts

by ARLnow.com February 16, 2013 at 2:20 pm 2,756 82 Comments

County Manager Barbara Donnellan discusses her proposed budget in 2011County Manager Barbara Donnellan has announced job cuts within Arlington County government.

The cuts are being made to help plug a $25-50 million budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year. Donnellan will outline her proposed FY 2014 budget to members of the media on Wednesday afternoon. The budget is expected to include a mix of cuts and tax hikes.

On Friday, in a memo to county employees (below) obtained by ARLnow.com, Donnellan announced that the county is cutting 46 staff positions, including 20 that are currently filled. She also said that the county has instituted a hiring slowdown and that 20 employees have taken an early retirement package.

The county is working to place the 20 employees whose positions were cut in other open positions within county government, Donnellan said.

To: All County Employees
Re: Balancing the FY 2014 Budget
Date: February 15, 2013

I’m sure you are aware that we are grappling with a $25 million gap for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget.

As a County we have taken many steps to help close that gap, and I am proud of the way departments have embraced this challenge. To close the gap, we will need to use a combination of tax rate increases and spending cuts.

As a part of the spending cuts, we instituted a hiring slow down a few months ago, which limits the pace at which departments may fill openings. Another piece of the strategy was to offer an Early Retirement Window for eligible employees, and 20 employees participated in that program.

After much thoughtful discussion, we have made the difficult decision to cut 46 County staff positions. Unfortunately, of these, 20 are currently filled, and we are working to move these employees into other open positions. The department directors and I do not take this decision lightly; these are among the toughest decisions that we have to make. We are making every attempt to place those employees into other positions within the County. If we are, for some reason, unable to match an employee with an open position, the employee will receive a severance package.

These are difficult fiscal times. We are aware that over the last few years, we have asked you to do more with less – taking up more work when a colleague retires and isn’t replaced; addressing new and increasing service demands due to our growing population; performing administrative work in addition to normal job duties.

We are successful only because of the strength of our staff, and I am grateful for your continued dedication and service to our community.


Barbara M. Donnellan

  • Jon

    +1 for some weekend content

    • Arl Outsider

      Why don’t the people pile into the County Board meetings and let these bumbling idiots know what you think of them. Demand an Independent IG and start finding out what’s going on with all this mismanagement and waste. Jay running on a fiscal responsibility platform – what a rich joke!

  • artsy dude

    There was more than a bit of grumbling in the halls at 2100 Clarendon because (1) the memo was delivered after 4 pm on a Friday before a 3-day weekend, and (2) those 20 folks don’t know who they are yet. Have a great weekend everybody!

    • Chris

      If that’s true that’s some pretty poor communication from the county’s management. Always talk to the involved people first, before announcing these things broadly.

    • The Bobs

      We find it’s always better to fire people on a Friday. Studies have statistically shown that there’s less chance of an incident if you do it at the end of the week.

    • ACDC Hack

      Those are the same tactics that the county uses for sending out assessments ……..talk about being hoisted on your own petard !!

    • Tumblebum

      The Friday PM info dump, promotion list, etc has been a common practice of Arl Co Govt for decades.

      • CW

        You must not follow much politics if you are giving credit for that trick to the ARLCo govt! Friday evening press release is the oldest one in the book.

        • Steve

          Where did he imply they invented it?

  • fedworker

    These folks can be retrained as streetcar conductors, lifeguards at the new aquatics center, and ticket salesperson at Artisphere. Problem solved.

  • James Moron

    Well, hopefully some of the them have the skill to either be streetcar drivers or attendants on the new taxpayer funded waterslides.

  • Becoming Indifferent

    But we’re getting a trolley and a bitchin’ pool!

    • Id

      A 72 million dollar pool. Party on!

    • Harry Anslinger

      Don’t forget the year-round homeless shelter conveniently located on the metro line for the benefit of DC Metro area transits who will flock there en masse to claim a clean bed the day it opens. Oh, and the Board wants to house them all too, get ready for another tax increase.

  • Quackers Live!

    Arlington County officials get raises

    • FedUp

      My first thought exactly. They get a raise and 20 employees get the shaft.

      • drax

        Yep. And it’s the first thing the 20 thought of too, most likely. A raw deal.

    • Douglas Parker

      Great point. What a shame. The County is run more like a Wall St. firm than I care to believe. Bonuses/raises for the C level, and the shaft for the workers…

      Nice example ArlCo…

      Novel idea – cut spending…

      • Douglas Parker

        (on non-human resources). Perhaps delay a super-stop or two. Like the one that sure as hell won’t be complete by the end of February as you boldly predicted.

    • barticus

      Great catch, Quackers. If I were one of those 20, I’d be pretty steamed at my boss’s boss.

  • vector45

    awesome idea… let’s get ride of 20 positions that are actually occupied. The money would be better spent on luxury pools, a trolley on the Pike and funding the artisphere! way to go Arlington!

    • Quackers Live!

      @vector45: Agreed, I love QOL as much as the next duck, but how can you have these pie in the sky projects while you’re sending people home and the roads are like washboards?

      “Throw the bums out” is a tad cliché, but maybe it’s time for a change?

      • ACDC Hack

        And it is very convenient that the poster boy for many of the egregiously over-the-top spending projects is up for this election cycle….. let us all say “Bye” to Jay !!

        • DCBuff

          Nice idea, but someone has to put up a viable candidate, and the Rs can’t seem to do that and then there are greenies and others to the left. No fiscal moderates. Neighbor Jay will win again.

          • FarNorthArl

            Jay was actually the only one on the board who was interested in creating the position of Inspector General. It never went anywhere, because I don’t think the rest of the board wanted the government to get scrutinized.

          • DCBuff

            Since I don’t know whether Jay has favored an IG or not (I’m aware the board in general does not favor), I won’t comment. Nevertheless, Jay has promoted irresponsible spending (see Artispharce) and higher taxes during his tenure, has treated the board as a full-time job (it is not) and early in 2013 has already demonstrated he doesn’t understand what the priorities of local gov’t should be, by announcing his Crusader Rabbit crusade against plastic bottles. He will win, but the county will be no better for it.

          • Chris

            I get so tired of hearing on these message boards the reason Ds always win Board elections is the Rs don’t put up viable candidates. In 2003 Mike Clancy ran against Tejada in the special election to replace Charles Monroe, who died suddenly that January. The qualifications couldn’t be more stark-Clancy was a lawyer, graduated with honors from Notre Dame, worked with many community organizations including AFAC and AHC, and was endorsed by Arlington cops and firemen. His opponent was a community organizer with a G.E.D. whose background primarily included working in the Arlington Rec League and organizing minority groups. So it seems true a “D” after one’s name is all you need to get elected in AC.

            As the Sun-Gazette ans WashPost have editorialized, Board members are privately engaging, but as a group are arrogant and close-minded. This will continue as long as the current election system in AC remains the status quo. The election process is rigged for the “D” incumbents since they only run one seat each year (except for every fourth year two seats are up for). Al five seats should run every four years. The Board argues they need continuity, but the House runs 435 every two years.

            Also, the seat up for election each year is always the rotating “Chairman’s”, thus maximizing the power of the incumbency through greater media exposure and photo ops. And, the five seats should not all be “at-large”; if the County were divided into five districts (or more, depending on neighborhood input and demographics), the County would get better representation. So a board member supporting CoPi trolley might not expect automatic support from a member who represents NoArl.

            Politics is about power. No changes, we get more of the same. No question we need at least an IG’s office. Will there be a DC Council redux in Arlington?

          • ACDC Hack

            I am sure that the “wheel will turn” sometime and the strangle hold that ACDC has on elected offices in Arlington will end but it is certainly difficult to see it happening anytime soon.
            So we will get more Artispheres, aquatic centers etc. and the raods will keep deteriorating…but the wheel will turn…of that you can be sure.

  • bobbytiger

    Addressing excessive spending. Now that’s a novel ideal.

  • iameye

    some people get fired and others get 10% rises….wonder how many less people would of been laid off if the higher ups don’t take pay rises…..

    • DCBuff

      My bet: not only does no one get laid off, but the ArlCo board, angels of mercy that they are, will raise taxes and make sure everyone gets their raise, keeps their job, and we will all be able to take the trolley to the waterpark and the Artispharce. Wait, scratch that last part.

      • ACDC Hack

        Alas, I sure wouldn’t bet against your prognostication…

  • Me

    This is just plain wrong and shows a lack of leadership. It is the height of contempt for county leaders to take a pay raise while letting go of any employee for fiscal reasons. I am a democrat and our democratic board members should show leadership not selfishness.

  • R

    I’m sorry, but it is ridiculous that it would need to come to this and that we have a $25-50 million budget shortfall to begin with. The best answer I can surmise is fiscal mismanagement. I just don’t understand how we could have a shortfall in Arlington County.

    We live in one of the wealthiest counties in the country. We have unemployment that is about 3%. Our average sales price for residential real estate is 3% higher than the “peak” year of 2007 during the “boom” and are some of the highest in the country, and property values are where the county generates most of its revenue. While just speculating, I would venture to guess that per capita, Arlington probably generates more personal property car tax than most other Virginia municipalities since we tend to drive more expensive cars than say those in Augusta or Tazewell counties. You would be hard pressed to find a handful of municipalities nationwide with an overall better local economic situation than Arlington County. If County Manager Donnellan truly believes that “These are difficult fiscal times”, than she must be ignorant and in for a cold dose of reality if Arlington ever actually encountered difficult fiscal times.

    The FY2013 general fund budget is over $100M or 11% higher than the FY2010 budget. Why is the county spending over $100M and 11% more in FY2013 than just 4 years ago? If the county leadership here can’t effectively balance a budget, or better yet run solid surpluses, after being given about the easiest financial situation that would be the envy of about 99.9% of leaders in similar positions across the country, then they are not effectively doing their jobs. It’s all well and good to have million dollar dog parks, fancy streetlights, and so on, but at the expense of people’s employment and livelihood, I don’t know about that.

    Now, all that being said, if there is dead weight within the county jobs pool that we can easily do without, then cut the dead weight. But if we are to take Donnellan at her word, which is what we should be insistent upon with our leaders that work for us and on our dime, then this has nothing to do with dead weight and is purely a lack of dollars issue. Based on everything I said above, in my opinion, that is despicable.

    • Greg

      All of this is right. The simple answer is that the Board is irresponsible. They’re more worried about the arts, the homeless, unncessary pools, and a streetcar than they are about the citizens of Arlington County.

      • YorktownStudent

        I agree on your points except the Homeless are citizens of Arlington county – therefore they should be given help. Most of them at one point had a job or house in Arlington and paid taxes. I hope that I live in a community where we want to help others. The statistics below show that the services Arlington provides are working. As well 112 children are homeless – hopefully you think they deserve to be served and worried about.

        The homeless population in Arlington fell by 13 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to a new study.

        An annual count of the region’s homeless conducted by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments showed that region-wide, the homeless population rose by 2 percent to 11,988 as of January 2011. But the homeless population in Arlington declined from 531 to 461 during that same period, a drop of 13 percent.

        The study found that there were 65 homeless families in Arlington, consisting of 81 adults and 112 children. Of the adults in homeless families, 38 percent are employed, according to the report.

        • fuzzy

          Which leads to the question then of why do we need to spend $28M to build a new homeless shelter if homelessness in Arlington continues to go down? Unless we’re trying to recruit the homeless from DC or Alexandria, it doesn’t make sense.

          • YorktownStudent

            @Fuzzzzzzy (sorry the z’s are just really fun to press) Everything costs money to build. The building is being totally re-done. Currently the facilities that the county has are not up to par. Hopefully though with this new rebuild there won’t ever need to be another homeless shelter built (things always need renovations every 20-15 years though). And the shelter won’t just house houses, it will also have offices and things like that. My original point was simply that the homeless are citizens of Arlington County and that they should be worried about and not over looked. As a community we should be looking out for all our citizens – even if it costs us money. If I was for some reason to ever become homeless for the many reasons there are I would hope that Arlington would have a reputable place to house me.

          • Coming from someone that doesn’t pay any taxes

            this reads like a person doesn’t understand the concept of taxes…looking at the name, I am not surprised.

            What does “up to par” mean. There isn’t a competition, regardless of what the ACBD thinks, with respect to building projects, especially ones demonstrating bad outcomes. Are we to make it so “up to par” that they want to stay. I’d rather have something serviceable that would be the impetus for the homeless to find a home.

            further, having really neato facility will likely induce homeless from other jurisdictions to Arlington.

            But, yes, we should worry about those less fortunate. But, when Arlington county is staring down the barrel of at least 5% budget deficit and the ACBD wants to spend millions of dollars on shelters, offices, trolleys, artispheres, dog parks, water parks, etc…maybe we should be taking a stronger look because spending on AAA style homeless shelter could mean someone’s job.

    • bobbytiger

      Well said.

    • Pete B

      Amen. Schools before pools.

  • Taxy

    Why is there a picture of Philip Seymour Hoffman with this article?

  • iameye

    budget shortfall due to all of us paying to educate kids that don’t live in county. also, because the school board is paying huge salary to the school super even though the all the schools did not pass no child left behind…and remember they renewed his contact behind the scenes 18 months early

    • Id

      How about adding public housing with more children? Ever see how many kids come out of the complex on Wilson near Glebe Rd? How about Buckingham Village? Any tax contributions from these residents are de minimus at best.

  • FedUp

    ooohhh no, 46 little positions are being cut. What a disaster! I bet they are probably “low-level” positions that pay low anyway. The fat cats who make the big bucks will still retain their positions. We need to cut way more than 46 positions.

    While we are cutting these low-level positions, high level politicians are quietly getting raises. Completely ridiculous.

    • mojo

      First, what am I missing? 46 positions to be cut – 20 early retirement won’t be filled + 20 more currently-filled cut and those employees sent home; and the 6 others are where?

      But just the number, 46? Something magical about that? Pulled out of a hat? IMO, this shows that the ArlCoGov is just looking at their shortfall from a number-crunching perspective and aren’t judiciously analyzing operations, services, programs and their value, cost-benefit analysis, efficiencies, standards and accountability.

      And FedUp is probably right, does one really think that the management and leadership are going to eliminate their own positions? No, they get raises.

      Low-level jobs – which will probably translate into last in/first out since this is where turnovers tend to be – will provide what cost savings to the County? Estimate the cost of this type of employee (salary + benefits) at $50K annually, and 20 of these put out on the street = $1 million. Didn’t Artisphere lose that amount last year? So, keep losing money on this project and let’s make these individuals and their families go through suffering, struggle and long-term hardships?

      Certainly in most bureaucratic organizations there are positions and programs that aren’t working; don’t make sense; can’t be justified on a needs basis, and so, belt-tightening can be a good thing. If only, there would be careful consideration of the positions being cut and their contribution to the services provided. Too much to hope for I guess when million dollar programs and projects somehow don’t get that sort of careful scrutiny. A $1.5 million dog park! Come on, Man!

  • Walter fajita

    How about the waste on the super pimped up bus shelters? Waste!

  • Arlwhat

    I’d really like to see a detailed explanation from the county regarding the justification of pay raises when at the same time instituting a RIF. It looks bad, smells bad, and sounds bad, but I’ll concede that not having all of the details close at hand might allow for this not to be crap.

  • Hollywood


    • drax

      Do you even know what an audit is?

  • Yatzee

    Wait until they announce the property tax increase that is being proposed ! Awesome to know a pool and streetcar are worth the damage to the lives of their own employees. But hey its cool, they most likely don’t live or vote in the county.

  • ACG needs IG + Audit

    The 20 actual staff getting cut are likely not all low level staff. Some hold key positions in busy Divisions that yet again are bearing the brunt of the cuts. I encourage everyone to closely review the final budget when released to see which Dept/Divisions are significantly affected, again. A real audit from an outsider not selected by the Board is desperately needed. The entire Board needs to be replaced, particularly Fisette and Zimmerman.

  • G::TheNativeArlingtonian

    Wait a second… we are going to cut people’s jobs, but we are going to build a multi-million dollar pool complex and a street car that only the County Board is in favor of? WTF?! Wrong, wrong wrong.

    • Ralph

      The County is not here to provide employment to government employees.

      It’s here to provide services and infrastructure to its citizens. You might disagree with the choices of a pool and a street car — but better those than artificially keeping people employed.

    • Harry Anslinger

      The County is cutting core services in order to fund Arlington County Board vanity projects. The budget shortfall is 100% self-inflicted. These are not-very-bright people, the type who would put a low barrier homeless shelter on some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. If you build it they will come.

  • PotholeDodger

    Here’s an idea for a story:

    With all the new construction and home prices increasing it seems like a boom period for the county. How do we have a tax shortfall?

    • CW

      Thought there had been a couple stories…isnt commercial vacancy still up due to BRAC?

      • Id

        The commercial vacancy is supposed to climb tremendously over the next couple of years. Somewhere in the ballpark of 25%.

        • CW

          Yeesh! Maybe convert to residential? I would sleep in a SCIF…very secure…

          • WeiQiang

            … but it’s hard to stream bossa nova through Pandora in a SCIF

  • acdc hack

    We don’t have a tax “shortfall”……we have a spending overage.

    What kind of accounting system is being used so that this could come as a “surprise” ??

    “With all the new construction and home prices increasing it seems like a boom period for the county. How do we have a tax shortfall?”

  • Tz

    Cut spending? What are they thinking – the Artisphere is brining in money hand over fist, the StreetCar is a sure thing when it comes to profit…Arlington has no spending problem – its only failure is to raise taxes and fees enough to spend more.

    • ACDC Hack

      “Arlington has no spending problem – its only failure is to raise taxes and fees enough to spend more.”

      Have you thought about running for the county board…..got to say that with that kind of thinking, you would be a natural !!!

  • Democrackhead

    You all forget to mention the 1.6mill for……a dog park. With other clauses, it will hit 2mill easily. In Clarendon. Or, you could sell the property and make 5-10 times the amount. Whats a democrat say? Build the dog park. Finance it with 30 year bonds. Increase taxes. And, deal with the spending problem in 20 years. Standard way of thinking around these parts.

    • CW

      And a republican says what, lets hide in our houses clinging to our guns tightly and homeschooling our kids? Since you want to talk generalizations just thought i would have some fun!

      • SomeGuy

        Note that the actions of your Republican caricature, which I presume you’re characterizing as foolish, have an impact felt only by the family involved in making those decisions.

        When that same Republican caricature forces you to abide by and fund his/her homeschooling and gun-clinging programs, then any gripe you may have about it has some credence.

        • CW

          “When that same Republican caricature forces you to abide by and fund his/her homeschooling and gun-clinging programs”

          Do two ten-year-long wars and private school voucher systems in a number of states count?

          • Hollywood

            You mean the voucher program families are desperate to get on? I guess if we had it your way they have to go to their local failing government school. You equate the voucher program to wars? lol you aren’t very bright, are you?

          • CW

            Where did I equate voucher programs and wars? You say I am not very bright, yet I have to apparently spell out a pretty simple sentence program for you.

          • CW

            And yes a lot of kids probably would be better off going to some of the “failing” public schools rather than the “schools” the vouchers send them to…you should look into that…talk about fraud and waste, a lot of those voucher programs are just funneling money into organizations that are not at all qualified to be teaching kids anything.

        • Yay

          That’s not true. Homeschooling, if done for religious reasons, has the obvious disadvantage that it perpetuates the ignorant ideas the parents have. Kids need to get exposure to mainstream ideas, like evolution and the scientific method — not get stuck in a Middle Age mentality. We all suffer if kids don’t get the education they deserve.

          • SomeGuy

            So IF the homeschooling is religious and IF it’s not of a good quality and IF the impact on society decades later turns out to be deleterious because small groups of people don’t think the way you want them to, then I suppose there’s broader indirect impact.

            Next time I’ll try to remember to qualify that.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    This is mostly just for show and to justify tax increases
    1) Early retirements – almost always require immediate outlays and only generate net savings years down the way.
    2) If say most or all of the 20 folks get ” move these employees into other open positions” – the net gain in county payroll costs is next to nothing.

  • As long as our county governement continues to build its annual budget w/o applying 5yr budget forecasting as a key to its requirements and budget building process for every agency and Constitutional office, we all will continue to find ourselves in this predicement and having the same conversation every year at this time.

    • Mike

      Excellent point. It seems that every year we “discover” things that should have been obvious to anyone who was looking ahead.

      And on the point that many folks have made – although an IG is a great idea, do not forget that the current County Manager is the same person who eliminated the internal audit department many years ago. Same Board, same manager, different result? I think not!

  • Wayne Kubicki

    From reading the Manager’s reports for this Saturday’s Board meeting, it appears that Donnellan’s proposed FY14 budget will include a real estate tax rate increase of 3.2 cents (from 95.8 to 99 cents – with the 1.3 cents for stormwater on top of those rates).

  • barticus

    If anyone knows one of the 20 who are getting laid off, encourage them to attend the March 27 streetcar town hall at Kenmore. I’d very much like to hear the County Board explain why their layoffs are justified while the streetcar is essential.

    • CW

      I would guess the explanation would center around the fact that the 20 jobs won’t provide transit between major urban areas for tens of thousands of people per day, and won’t result in many millions of dollars worth of development and property value increases along the Pike, but what do I know.

      • Here is some math

        Would said develop occur without the trolley or even the BRT – most reasonable people would say – yes based on the simple conclusion Arlington only has so much land.

        Thus, the issue is what is the difference between RE taxes incurred from said development (sans trolley) v. development with the trolley. Let’s say for giggles that is 10 million a year (I doubt the difference is a tenth of that). But, I go with an overly optimistic view. That would mean just to pay off the low end budget cost of 250 million would take 25 years to bring the numbers equal.

        But, that doesn’t account for cost overruns, running the trolley, and hiring costs…
        see where this is going.

        • CW

          “Based on the simple conclusion Arlington only has so much land”. Ok, so you’re also assuming the Valley, 4 Mile Run, etc. are just as good as candidates for dense urban development? Because land is land you say. And, the flip side of what you’re arguing is that the R-B corridor’s growth was just coincidentally correlated to the presence of transit along that path, because, as you argue, land is land.

          You also, like most people fighting the project, continually cite the wrong cost figure. Yes, $250M is the whole project cost. Of that 56% is supposed to come from Arlington and Fairfax Counties. So, at the high end, Arlington would likely not be footing more than half of the capital cost. No, that is not chump change or lunch money by and means, but please, if you are going to make an argument purportedly based upon quantitative data as your snide “Here is some math” sockpuppet would imply, then use accurate figures should you wish to be taken seriously.

  • Housing Advocate

    Losing this level of staff will likely effect core services and make Arlington less livable. So even if the stretcar will make Arlington more livable (a dubious claim), this is robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    @CW Property value increases will always mean less affordable housing, even with inclusionary zoning. The numbers are pretty clear on this but supposedly progressive trolley backers prefer denial to facing up to this reality.

    • CW

      I am sorry but I believe in the greater good. I do not believe in holding back economic growth across the board to protect the interests of a few. Yes, change and growth have downsides and some people will long for the old days. It’s easy for me to wish there were 1990’s housing prices so I could go get myself a nice new house with a big yard. But that’s thinking selfishly, not about our society. If you believe in our capitalist system then you believe that economic growth is a net positive.


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