This story was updated at 8:30 a.m., Oct. 17, 2013.
Although federal workers were back on the job as of Thursday, Fairfax County’s number-crunchers will still be paying close attention to the impact the shutdown had on the county’s bottom line.
The actions in Congress Wednesday eliminated the possibility of severe cuts to the county programs that rely on federal funds, but the fact that so many county residents were furloughed will likely affect sales tax revenues.
Sales tax receipts in the county have already decreased for three consecutive months, said Chief Financial Officer Susan Datta, including a 6.6 percent decline in October receipts.
The October figure reflects sales taxes from purchases made in August, before the shutdown but during the period in which many local federal employees were furloughed or anticipating furloughs due to sequestration.
“We’re not really going to see the shutdown impacts until much later,” Datta said. “The concern is that the whole uncertainty of the picture will affect people’s willingness to go buy things.”
She is also concerned that the local business tax receipts will be down, as they typically follow sales taxes. Those taxes are paid in March.
Federal workers will receive back pay for the days the government was shut down.
Even once the government reopens, County Executive Ed Long said he is concerned that the county economy could continue to lag due to the uncertainty of federal spending levels because congressional leaders did not reach a long-term solution. They will be facing new budget and debt deadlines in January and February.
There are more than 4,100 government contracting companies in the county, representing more than $26 billion in federal procurement awards in fiscal 2012. Personal earnings from federal employment account for about 10 percent of all personal earnings in the county.
Long has said the county’s slow recovery from the recession has been primarily due to uncertainty about federal spending among the many government contracting companies that call the county home, which in turn affects growth in other areas, like the service sector.
“If nothing else, this uncertainty is going to last at least until February,” Long said. “It’s going to be more retrenching.”