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Smyth Warns Draconian Cuts Coming in Fairfax

In an unprecedented move, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will begin a series of extraordinary meetings later this summer to prepare for draconian cuts in its budget, including the elimination of some essential programs.

Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth reported this development in remarks to the monthly luncheon of the Merrifield Business Association Tuesday, laying out a grim picture of what the housing foreclosure crisis is causing to happen in Fairfax County.

Smyth, who spoke with the News-Press following her remarks to the business group, said that the rate of housing foreclosures is continuing to accelerate in the county, centered in clusters around Springfield and the Route 1 corridor.

She presented statistics showing that in 2006 there were a total of 593 foreclosures in the county, Virginia’s largest with over a million people. But in 2007, that number shot up to 4,527. And in the first four months of 2008 alone, there have been 4,922, representing an annual rate of almost 15,000 if the same trend continues.

Smyth said that the best guess at present is that the rate of foreclosures will result in a $350 million shortfall for the county’s next annual operating budget, the one that will commence in July 2009.

She said there is no data, so far, to indicate how this will impact revenues for the fiscal year immediately ahead, which commences this July 1, and how many additional cuts may have to be made during the months ahead.

Still, she reported that the Board of Supervisors, which usually does not begin crafting an annual operating budget until the beginning of a calendar year in January, will start this time four months early, in September.

That’s because the necessary cuts will unavoidably impact what many will consider “necessary programs” and “core functions,” she said. She added that rising fuel costs will also put new strains on the county budget, although no data is yet available on that.

Problems will be complicated for the Merrifield area, she added, by the disruptive effects of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (DOT) massive “hot lanes” project, aimed at easing congestion on the Beltway.

“Merrifield will be ‘ground zero’ for that new construction,” she said, with major traffic disruptions expected as “hot lane” ramps to and from Route 29 are constructed that will create problems for Routes 29, 50 and 66 interchanges. Route 50, during construction, will be narrowed to two lanes each way under the Beltway, she said.

On top of this disruption, the DOT’s major revamping of the intersection of Route 29 and Gallows Road, familiar to many as the Taco Bell intersection, will also cause major traffic disruptions.

Businesses around that intersection have already begun to be closed up in response to “right of way acquisitions” by DOT, leaving some Merrifield businessmen concerned about the appearance of vacated and empty buildings at a time when Merrifield is trying to become a magnet for new development.

“I strongly urge planning ahead,” Smyth said, “With the aggressive promotion of car pooling, van pooling and teleworking alternatives. We are simply going to have to get a lot of cars off the road.”

“I’m afraid I am not the bearer of a lot of glad tidings,” she said.

Smyth’s comments did not extend to the traffic disruptions that will be created by the extension of the Metro rail system through Tysons Corner, and the expected explosive commercial and residential development that will attend it.

Tysons Corner, which is also in Smyth’s district, currently has only two significant access routes, Routes 7 and 123, which are both expected to be significantly disrupted by the new developments projects there.

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