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Reston Association: Small Changes Have Fiscal Impact

by Karen Goff — March 26, 2015 at 9:00 am 42 Comments

Cate Fulkerson/Credit: RAReston Association is looking towards the next budget cycle with an eye towards cutting small costs that could add up to organizational — and possibly member — savings, says RA CEO Cate Fulkerson.

Saving money and generating revenue have been a priority for more than a year as RA plans its 2016-17 budgets, she told members at the South Lakes District meeting earlier this week.

RA annual member assessments have been steadily rising over the last several years, to $642 in 2015. Cost savings could eventually have in impact in stabilizing assessment rates.

“We are now in year two of a two-year budget cycle,” she said. “When [the current budget] was organized in 2013,  the focus was on capital asset upkeep and management. The board needed to put $2.5 million in reserves to maintain our assets.”

In Jan. 2014 and 2015, Fulkerson said she asked the staff to “look inward” with these questions:

  • How can we improve the way we are doing business?
  • What are we doing that is unnecessary?
  • What should we be doing instead?

Some of the answers: step up RA’s marketing program; increase number of popular programs; capture non-member revenue; and eliminate processes that burden members and impact expenses.

The brainstorming has already paid off, says Fulkerson.

“At the end of 2014, for the first time in about 10 years, the CEO did not ask for additional money to cover operating expenses,” she said. “Operations came in under budget and the savings were put into reserves.

Fulkerson pointed out some of the potential and actual savings and revenue-generating changes. Some of them:

  • Savings of $8,700 in changing way outdoor pools are closed at end of the season
  • Savings of $4,700 in eliminating unnecessary printing
  • New revenue of $1,170 by adding Cedar Ridge garden plots
  • New revenue of $3,000 by getting maximum capacity at recreational vehicle lot
  • Savings of $2,000 by offering digital HOA documents
  • Revenue of $12,000 by charging outside vendors for table space at workshops
  • Revenue of $7,500 to $10,000 for charging commercial properties for Design Review Board applications
  • Savings of $10,000 in changes to stock portfolio administration

The changes resulted or will result in a little over $100,000 in impact on RA’s $15,000,000 budget. But Fulkerson says “every little bit helps.”

One area where the association is projecting longterm savings is by going paperless in many departments. Fulkerson said electronic-only delivery of election materials, for example, saves the association $2 per member. Electronic-only assessment delivery would be savings of $1.34 per member.

Reston Association has 21,300 member households — a number that is expected to increase significantly with new and under-construction multi-family residential properties set to join the association in the near future.

“We had $132,000 projected for postage in 2015,” said Fulkerson. “I realize not everyone [in RA] is ready to receive materials electronically.”

She said if 5,000 members opt for email only, it would save the association $24,000 next year.

According to RA Bylaws, though, members must give permission for that to happen. To opt in, email [email protected] with this info:

  • Electronic correspondence requested (Options include assessment notices, Board of Directors elections, referendums, Design Review Board decisions and RA News).
  • Full name, property address, primary household email and whether you are a renter or owner.

RA will continue discussing the upcoming budget over the next several months (member feedback is welcome) and will vote on it in November.

File photo of RA CEO Cate Fulkerson

  • allisondacia

    We bought in Reston last Spring, and avoided single family homes in the RA, I am SO glad we bought in one of the single family home hoa’s not in the RA. We made the right choice.

    • Scott H

      Where might one find data on neighborhoods that are NOT part of RA?

      • Holly Weatherwax

        Most local Realtors know which neighborhoods have non-RA homes.

      • allisondacia

        Off the top of my head, Deepwoods and Stratton Woods. There is at least one more.

    • SoDone with Reston bashing

      Which makes you NOT in Reston, but a Reston zip code. Reston Association is not perfect, but it’s better than being a wanna-be.

      • Tom Vukm

        Says who? Those HOAs are in the small tax district for Reston. RA is a business, not a government.

    • Secret Observers

      ……..”Which makes you NOT in Reston, but a Reston zip code. Reston Association is not perfect”
      -Reston welcome anyone “to live, work, play…”. Reston zip code will last forever. For RA and its “officers”, 10, 50, or 100 years ?

      ………”Why spend $100k (the number I heard reported) to upgrade/redo the website? Surely it could have been redone for a whole lot less”.
      -Desperate and urgent attempt to rush and hide or “delete” past secret information or records in preparation to deal with legal storms from Virginia “Homeowner Bill of Rights” and have cyber security to protect their secret from hackers. Without a budget of hundreds of millions dollars to spend for cyber protection such as POTUS, CIA, NSA or DOD, May God bless and Good luck poor RA ! Ghosts, worms, virus, may be laughing with cookies in RA, President, CEO, BOD’s servers, personal computers, iphones, ipads. :):):)

  • Ming the Merciless

    We love savings!

    That’s why we’re going to borrow $2.65 million to buy a property worth a lot less for no clear or convincing reason!

    “What are we doing that is unnecessary?” — buying the Tetra property!

    • Reston Realist

      Speaking of which, did anyone note in the Letter of Intent posted on Reston 2020’s blog that Tetra has to replace not only the shingles, but the ROOF TRUSSES before closing. Folks, that STRUCTURAL, suggesting major damage that will need to be repaired elsewhere in the building as well. Oh well, maybe it’s just a “teardown” for $2.65 MILLION.

      Here’s that LOI link (which you can’t find on that fancy new RA website): http://reston2020.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-signed-ra-tetra-properties-letter.html

      • JCSuperstar

        Well, one can only hope that’s being negotiated.

        • Ming the Merciless

          Eagerly agreeing to pay twice what the property is worth is always a fine way to begin a negotiation…

          • JCSuperstar

            At the end of the day, what would be wrong with a restaurant there?

          • Ming the Merciless

            Nothing as far as I’m concerned.

          • Reston Realist

            Enough with the restaurants. We’ve had McTacoHut for decades. What more do you need?

  • JCSuperstar

    Well. They do look trivial, but as a business owner, I know personally, these things do add up and can bite you in the butt if your not on top of them. I did not know this is the first time they came in under budget.

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Then why spend $100k (the number I heard reported) to upgrade/redo the website? Surely it could have been redone for a whole lot less.

    • JCSuperstar

      I think this one was beat up pretty well previously. In my world of business, it’s not a bad number if it was designed to be an open platform for backend systems, etc. Needless to say, more facts are needed. Not defending the expense, just saying there are many things we don’t know.

  • JoeInReston

    Small changes can have an impact, but big changes can have a bigger impact. The proposed Tetra purchase and the web site overhaul dwarf any savings mentioned in this article.

    Finally got around to voting last night. Is it the case that there are two at large positions up for election and only two at large candidates running to fill those positions – meaning both candidates will get in regardless of the vote?

    • Karen Goff

      yes. the two at large candidates are running unopposed. But they still need to be voted in by a quorum of voters per RA bylaws.

      • It seems as though quorum has been meet for all races as well this year, so they are already on slated to be on the board in April.
        If we all want different ideas represented in candidate’s, more people should be willing to put their name up. The more people the run, the more options we all have!

        • JoeInReston

          Thank you Charles for running and giving people in your district a choice.

        • John Farrell

          Charles supports the purchase also. As does his opponent so no difference there.

      • JoeInReston

        Thanks… I abstained voting for that particular position

  • Mad Reston Resident

    Lots of added revenue by more fees, that kind of fund raising tends to blow up when people stop wanting to do business with the Association due to fees. I my companies website built for $5,000 and it’s complete $100,000.00 I would love to see an audit on that. Clearly if that is all worthy of an article, RA is in no shape to be over paying to buy Terra with on the nondisclosed information.

  • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

    The RA way. They give 40K to build a community garden at Cedar Ridge Apts, then boast of 1,170.00 a year in new revenue from renting garden plots. In 34 years that will be a break even. “Looking inward” for 2 years, and this is what they come up with. Now they want to improve “marketing plans”. Its laughable. And it took how many paid man hours of “brainstorming” to come up w/ this? Its hopeless.

    • JCSuperstar

      BO, where did you see the $40K figure? I attended a couple of the meetings, did not see that.

      • Reston Realist

        Of course you didn’t see it, that’s part of RA’s “transparency.”

      • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

        That number was put out a while back and was discussed on this site. I think that $40K was given in 2014.

        • JCSuperstar

          Was that the Memorial Garden? If so, I don’t think that was a garden plot. I have some neighbors who use the RA garden plots, they’re very successful.

          • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

            NO JC it was not . It was a community garden for the low income families at Cedar Ridge.

          • JCSuperstar

            The Board of Directors voted at its meeting on Thursday to install a 30′ by 30′ garden plot on on RA’s common area between and Cedar Ridge.

            RA will work with , Friends of Reston and Sustainable Reston to get the garden up and running for residents of Cedar Ridge, a low-income housing complex. Many Cedar Ridge residents are Reston Interfaith clients.

            Installation of the plot will cost $5,770, says Larry Butler, RA’s Director of Parks and Recreation. Friends of Reston will contribute $2,000 and RA will pay for the rest, he said.

            The plot was previously approved by RA’s Design Review Board in March. There are existing water lines to the plot area, as there was a previous garden there about 15 years ago, Butler said.

            Diane Blust, President of Sustainable Reston, said she is excited to get started on a project that will benefit Cedar Ridge residents and promote community sustainability.

            “This is a way to show you really care about everyone in the community,” she said. “And the access to fresh, local food, this would be a way to give back to the whole Cedar Ridge community.”

            http://patch.com/virginia/reston/cedar-ridge-to-get-community-garden

          • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

            JC I wish I knew what to tell you. I’m not gonna research it, but I swear, there was info related to $40K….go back, ask Karen to dig it up, no pun intended. There was much discussion from the regulars on this site. I even remember asking for RA to subsidize my grocery bill. So perhaps there is conflicting info, but $40K was the number that was out there

          • Karen Goff

            It was never $40K. Like $5k maybe and a lot was paid by Friends of Reston.

          • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

            You are both wrong. Please refer to article on Reston Patch on 11/22/2013 by Alex McVeigh titled “Reston ASsociation Assessments up 7.5% in 2014. Last Paragrph. BOOM

          • Karen Goff

            Apparently I reported that too. Still trying to find out if this was ever completed.
            https://www.restonnow.com/2013/11/22/ra-members-will-pay-634-assessments-in-2014/

          • Karen Goff

            OK got some info from RA president Ken Knueven. The $43K was a wish list item…

            “the $43K was an ask from staff at the budget planning time — to expand our Garden Plots all over the area to meet the needs of the huge backlog of people wanting to use one. A great idea, I support it, but it did not make the final budget. I will say, the Cedar Ridge Garden Plot is a great example of what can be done if the whole Community organizes. You’re right, we only spent about $2K of member dollars on Cedar Ridge. “

          • Karen Goff

            I stand somewhat corrected. In late 2013, RA had on its project list $43k to add fencing and water sources to Cedar Ridge. As far as I know that was never funded, but I will double check on that (but it may have to wait till Monday). https://www.reston.org/Portals/3/2013%20GENERAL/NOV112013%20Special%20Board%20Meeting%20Materials.pdf

  • Reston Realist

    The hypocrisy of RA boasting about a savings of $100,000 when, according to another RestonNow article published today (https://www.restonnow.com/2015/03/27/tetra-building-needs-new-roof-other-repairs/), acquiring Tetra will cost more than $50,000 this (half) year (with a lease back), and then an added $100,000 for at least the next 2 years (based on RA’s understated $2.57, $4.55, and $4.43 incremental additions per household noted in the article)–and will likely grow–is disingenuous, disgusting, and dangerous.

    • JCSuperstar

      Aren’t they getting $650K from a developer though?

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