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RA: Pro-Rated Assessments Would Need Referendum

by Karen Goff — November 7, 2014 at 9:30 am 9 Comments

Reston Association 50Reston Association has been considering making some changes to what a small number of homeowners pay in annual assessments. But one change that will not be coming soon is pro-rated amounts that vary according to property value (in the same manner as property tax).

RA CEO Cate Fulkerson says the current structure — where the vast majority of members pay a flat annual assessment (slated to be $642 in 2015) that goes toward paths, pools, parks and recreational programs, among other amenities — is written into the deed. Changing it to a pro-rated amount would require a member referendum.

“The board can’t act independently on how assessments are determined,” says Fulkerson.

Meanwhile, at its next meeting on Nov. 20, the RA Board of Directors will consider setting a 50-percent assessment rate reduction for members who receive real estate tax relief from Fairfax County. Comments from members are welcome at the public hearing portion of the meeting.

This action was discussed at the board planning meeting earlier this week. Many members of citizen advocacy group Reston 2020 attended the planning meeting to voice their concerns.

RA says reductions in annual assessment fees for residents who qualify for real estate tax relief have always existed within RA, says Fulkerson. However, no specific percentage rate for those reductions is stated in the Reston Deed, even though those reductions have been around 50 percent in recent years.

RA says about 450 out of the 17,000 residential units in Reston are projected to receive county tax relief in 2015 and would qualify for the 50 percent reduction.

RA is also allows assessments of 0.5 percent of property value (instead of the flat rate) for homes with values of less than $128,000. That is about 120 units in Reston, says RA.

Residents that live in state- or federally subsidized housing units or elderly housing or assisted living are also given a $10 break on assessments.

RA expects to collect more than $13 million in assessments in 2015. Total estimated revenue for the year comes in at more than $16 million, according to RA, with $5.4 million spent on management and headquarters costs; $2.7 million spent on recreation services; and $2.1 million spent on park maintenance.

While the increase from 2014 to 2015 is only $8, the rate rose 7.45 percent from 2013 to 214, and has risen by $127 annually in the last five years.

  • Reston Realist

    Just wondering how Fulkerson can say, on the one hand, ““The board can’t act independently on how assessments are determined,” and then the Board can proceed to do just that by switching from a fixed fee system to a sliding fee scale. If it can switch how it handles lower valued homes, why can’t it also switch how it addresses higher valued homes? Inquiring minds want to know, but then RA leadership routinely speaks out of both sides of its mouth.

    • nicknow

      Because the deed creating the Reston Association, which you agree to be bound by when buying a property within the Reston Association boundaries, states they can. It is that simple – the deed states the rules and everyone agreed to them.

  • Single-Family Homeowner

    I think Reston 2020 is premature by committing themselves against the measure. A sliding scale to the assessments would support our goal in Reston of having a community open to all incomes and ages. A lower assessment for a young family coming to Reston would be meaningful. It would help them to afford to live and work in the area. A somewhat higher assessment for wealthier families wouldn’t be a terrible burden. Some will argue that there’s an issue of fairness. The amenities that Reston offers are available to all equally, not more for the wealthy. If you are to assume, however, that Reston’s amenities increase one’s home value by 10%, then the owners of more expensive properties are unfairly benefitting financially off the backs of those with lower property values. Unless Reston 2020 is simply looking to build a private utopia for the wealthy, they should reconsider their stance.

    • Single-Family Homeowner

      Furthermore, despite the potential benefit, a sliding scale can’t be implemented without a change to the Reston deed via a member referendum. This over-reaction by Reston 2020 has caused me to change how I look at them. I’m not so sure they represent the values that I’ve always thought were important to Restonians.

      • Reston Realist

        Please read my original comment, which notes that the RA Board is specifically changing how assessments are determined WITHOUT A REFERENDUM.

    • Reston Realist

      Two quick points:
      1. As you can see in the Reston 2020 post, there is already a mechanism for dealing with low-income families in Reston–which the amendment proposes to take out!
      2. A high-value house does not necessarily mean a high-income family lives there. In fact, as Restonians’ age and try to stay in their homes as the Reston Vision suggests they should be able to do, they quite likely are living on reduced incomes (pensions and savings) that are not keeping pace with the growth of the value of their homes, particularly if they’ve lived in the same home for 20-30 years. They would be penalized (as they already are by County and RCC special property taxes) by an assessment fee based on the value of their home rather than their income–which might actually be fair.

  • Cluster Tycoon

    Switching to a pay as you go system would be best. If you are not using the pool or the tennis courts, why pay? If you do not use the path why pay for shoveling the snow? Etc. Following this method RA will have to concede and Reston will come under the fold of Fairfax County, the richest county in the United States. Make me proud.

  • east297

    Help! As a senior citizen (lived here for 43 years, same house in Reston), I think anyone over 65 should be exempt from RA dues! What do you think about that suggestion RA?

  • nicknow

    Members of the Reston Association should be highly concerned about their property association becoming a property value funded operation. As it currently operates the association income is not strongly correlated to the housing market. This provides a lot of stability in the budget and level of service. In a % of Value funding system, as opposed to the current fixed fee funding system, the association’s income will grow faster than relative inflation and demand for services in a rising real estate market.

    This is the last thing you want in a community. Look at what happens to the Fairfax County budget when property rates rise/fall. During a boom everything gets funded until the boom ends resulting in a panic as revenue falls.

    The current Reston Association fixed fee structure works and has worked for decades. It would be a mistake for the people of Reston to make such a change.

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