Local Commentary

Editorial: Just How Bad Is the Shortfall?

Although no one talking about what the actual number is, by Monday the Falls Church City Council will learn that it faces a significant shortfall in the current fiscal year budget.

And Vice Mayor Hal Lippman has already tipped that it is greater than last year’s, when around this time in ’08, cuts adding up to $800,000 had to be found.


We can expect the news to be grim. No matter how bad the situation has been on the macro level, nationally and globally, or even personally in terms of some folks’ 401k’s and other investments, somehow there remains a sense that these problems are either the subject of the national news, or personal problems limited to those who’ve been burned individually. But how about the impact on the general level of the services local government provides to maintain our lifestyles? These are somehow supposed to be in some separate place, as are any real increases in the taxes everyone in the community may have to pay.

Whether or not, for example, teachers will need to be laid off or classes cut or classroom sizes increased, whether or not some high school sports programs will be eliminated, or other after-school activities cancelled, these are supposed to be locally-determined things that can be avoided by loud protests at local City Council or School Board meetings. Well, maybe not so any more, not given the depths of the economic crisis finally coming home to roost at the local level.

All we are saying here, without knowing any details, dear readers, is to brace yourselves. Falls Church has been one of those fortunate jurisdictions that has averted fiscal crises sometimes through veritable hat tricks, or so it has seemed. But in 19 years of the publication of this newspaper, and of editorials in this space, we’ve never seen a time when cuts have had to actually break the surface of the skin, and grind into some serious bone matter. This may be the year, and given the state of things, may be the rule for a number of years to come.

The City has been fortunate to have enjoyed a generally progressive and forward-looking elected leadership, such as is predominantly the case now, that has opened the doors to new commercial and residential development which compensated in the last few years as revenues from residential real estate values began to shrink. But this recession, as we’ve said repeatedly in this space, is no ordinary recession. This has had the global economy on the brink of complete and total meltdown, and the world could still sink into something deeper and more tenacious than the last Great Depression.

Don’t blame this on local political leaders. Don’t blame it on the Obama administration, either. These problems have deep roots, but were accelerated to warp speed under eight years of the greed-dominated, anti-regulation obsessed Bush administration and its cronies, and we’ll all be forced to pay the price for years to come.