Reston Association: Small Changes Have Fiscal Impact

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

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