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Facing Sequestration, Local Governments Weigh Tax Hikes, Service Cuts

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Arlington is one of several parts of Virginia that stands to take a big hit from federal budget cuts.
Arlington is one of several parts of Virginia that stands to take a big hit from federal budget cuts.

Local governments in Virginia are getting ready to increase residential property tax bills, as the specter of sequestration casts doubt on the bottom line.

"The last decade, I think they saw everything growing," says George Mason University professor Frank Shafroth. "Now I think they are with Rod Serling in the Twilight Zone."

Sterling says 82 percent of funding provided to state governments is exempt from the sequester, while 73 percent of federal funds that go into local governments are subject to sequestration. That means that everything from education programs to highway funds are now in the crosshairs of the political fight across the Potomac River in Washington, leaving leaders of local governments to perform a delicate balancing act over the next few weeks.

"A significant number of federal employees in the region are going to be furloughed," Shafroth says. "They will be furloughed one day a week. That's not going to change what they have to pay for their monthly mortgage fee."

Fairfax County leaders are considering $20 milion of budget reductions. Arlington officials have singled out $9.3 million worth of cuts, a list that includes everything from reducing services for the mentally ill to eliminating the local regulation of  child-care services. In Alexandria, City Council members are considering a budget proposal that would reduce expenditures by $13.8 million while increasing the personal property tax on motor vehicles.

Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille says the budget can be a difficult balancing act.

"When you go down that road with layoffs, you're talking about impacting quality of service," Euille says. "I mean, whether they are public safety employees or teachers or whether they are sanitation workers."

Virginia stands to lose as many as 200,000 jobs in all because of the sequester cuts.


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