State cuts to affect county programs


The ramifications of Gov. Mark R. Warner’s $858 million in announced cuts over the next two years Tuesday will be sorted out by local officials over the next month — but some impacts are already known.

For drivers, Department of Motor Vehicle centers will be closed Wednesdays starting Nov. 6.

For local students, state aid to George Mason University will be cut 10 percent. Now the university has to decide how to absorb it: through a tuition hike or cuts in personnel/programs or both.

For persons who get assistance for substance abuse or mental retardation, they could see longer waits for service or more inconvenience. For example, persons getting nonmedical detoxification services will have to drive three hours to Staunton because the county-cities Community Services Board will not be able to afford local services.

For consumers of spirits, state ABC stores will reduce their operating hours.

Local government workers in the offices of commissioner of the revenue, treasurer and clerk of court will have to weather 11 percent cuts, and Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert will see his state funding reduced 7 percent

Police and sheriffs departments were spared in this round of cuts, but in December, Warner will submit further budget cuts expected to be much worse, a month before the General Assembly goes into session to correct the state budget and its nearly $2 billion hole.

“We’ve been told these are going to be the easy ones. The next round is going to be the tough ones,” said Dana Fenton, legislative liaison for Prince William County.

Fenton and the county executive will work through October to give the county supervisors a breakdown of cuts and options for their next meeting Nov. 19. State cuts could be offset by increased funding from local sources.

Other areas affected:

The library system that serves Prince William, Manassas and Manassas Park only gets 6 percent of its $12 million budget from the state. Still, that aid is already down 8 percent from last year and goes down another 15 percent with Warner’s cuts.

Virginia Dorkey, deputy director of administrative services for the library system, said last year’s cuts did take away from library materials, but this latest round was not a surprise and the system will try to absorb it in equipment procurement and administrative expenses.

Materials could still be affected, resulting in longer waits for hot new books, and vacancies going unfilled now will only be a temporary fix and necessitate permanent cuts in the next fiscal year, she said.

“Of course, we don’t know how deep the next cut will be,” Dorkey said.

The Virginia budget cycle begins July 1. Lawmakers make the budget during a session in February to March.

More than $450,000 will be cut from Community Services Board programs, a 10 percent reduction in state aid. The board assists persons with mental health needs including depression, addictions and mental retardation.

“With these reductions, we clearly have to cut services that we provide,” said Rita Romano, emergency services division manager, acting director for the CSB this week.

Among options to save money: Two residential care homes for mentally retarded individuals will be contracted out, resulting in 17 staff positions lost, she said.

One position that does outreach to elderly persons, who tend to be inaccessible and not seek help for depression, will be eliminated, she said.

In the youth, family and adult program, 1.5 positions will be eliminated for outpatient counseling.

A pot of money that is preserved for unexpected small needs for mental retardation families will be used up. This money helps with things like wheelchairs and ramps, she said.

Staff writer Chris Newman can be reached at (703) 878-8062.

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