Welfare reforms and rising populations may lead to cuts to core council services and compulsory job losses, MSPs have been told.
Tight budgets and the new Universal Credit benefit system mean councils are entering "the territory of making hard decisions", Holyrood's Local Government Committee was told.
The committee heard of the impact of the Scottish Government's Draft Budget for 2014/15 from representatives of Aberdeen City Council, Midlothian Council and Falkirk Council.
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MSPs heard the Universal Credit - which will combine a number of benefits into one single monthly payment - would put further pressure on local authorities.
Kenneth Lawrie, chief executive of Midlothian Council, said: "We are finding additional rent arrears accruing at about 14,000 a week, which is quite a lot for a small council."
Bryan Smail, chief finance officer at Falkirk Council, said the local authority projected that over the next three years it will be hit by a cumulative budget deficit of £35 million.
On the possibility of further job losses, Mr Smail said: "The council has had a no-compulsory-redundancy policy so those staff who have gone have been by voluntary severance. Going forward, I fear it will be a different environment."