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Surplus to Keep RA Assessments Down in 2016 Won’t Be There in ’17

by Karen Goff — November 4, 2015 at 1:00 pm 20 Comments

RA meetingThe Reston Association Board of Directors has found an surplus $1 million to keep  assessments from rising more than $15 in 2016. But what will happen in 2017?

That is the question RA Board Treasurer Dannielle LaRosa (North Point) posed to the board in a budget meeting on Monday.

Two weeks ago, LaRosa presented to the board a plan to move the cash from its operating fund reserves — which built up partially as a result of assessments being overfunded for several years.

The board liked the plan, and voted to use option two of three presented to them — to offer assessments at $657 next year, a 2-percent ($15) increase from this year’s $642 and far under the $718 assessment cap.

On Monday, LaRosa wanted to make certain the board understood that the additional $1 million won’t be there at this time next year, and without  some serious examination of future spending or an influx of revenue, assessments could rise by more than $40 in 2017 — flirting with the $700 mark.

“I honestly could not sleep without letting you know this is what we are approving,” said LaRosa.

LaRosa outlined some of the association’s biggest cost drivers. She pointed out that since 2011, RA has given 4 percent increases in salary and compensation. Professional and legal fees have increased about $240,000 in the last two years.

“We are putting off some hard choices that we are going to have to face in 2016-17,” said LaRosa.

Board members said there are some areas in which Reston should not curtail spending. Among them: keeping good employees and maintaining Reston’s assets.

“We have come to a good place with regards to 2016,” said At-Large member Ken Knueven. “I am confident we are addressing the issues a 50-year-old community has to address. Things have to be maintained. Old [RA] boards were doing a little ‘let the next board worry about it.’ This board has to step up, be frank tell the public we are going to do something about it.”

“Across-the-board cuts are meaningless to me,” he added. “Let’s start focusing on other side of equation — revenue.”

At-Large Director Ray Wedell said the large influx of new members expected with new residential construction means the RA membership could grow exponentially in coming years.

“That means an influx of dollars,” he said. “We should be raising revenue quite a bit. That in itself should do wonders in keeping assessments down.”

Take a look at the second draft of the 2016 budget on RA’s website.

There will be an additional budget meeting and public hearing Nov. 19 at RA headquarters. The board will vote on the final budget and assessment amount in late November or early December.

  • Tetra

    “Let’s start focusing on other side of equation — revenue.”

    That Tetra property purchase is gonna bring in tons of revenue 2017!

    • Ming the Merciless

      Is that when they’ll make the transition to Hooters?

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Why worry about spending when your revenue stream is beholden to you?

    • Ming the Merciless

      And you can hold their most important possession hostage to your financial whim!

  • vachamp

    Special thanks to Treasurer Dannielle LaRosa for all of her hard-work
    & innovative approach to the budget.
    Cate Fulkerson & the RA staff should also be thanked for researching
    & presenting the board with numerous budget options. Currently, plans are for the assessment to be
    $657 for 2016 & as high as $714 for 2017. The only reason the 2016
    assessment is being held down is that the RA board is planning to use $1
    million dollars excess from 2015 to keep the assessment lower. For 2017
    though, the assessment spike of $714 is unwise & unnecessary. We can
    fund the Pottery Barn & similar projects while finding savings in other
    areas. Over a 2 month budget process,
    the RA board only approved savings of less than $2.80 of the annual assessment while
    adding approx $7.17 to the annual assessment for curb appeal items of
    additional mowing, edging & landscaping medians throughout Reston. (this is
    over & above what VA VDOT & Fairfax Co would normally perform.)
    Additionally, no cost savings were utilized from the quarterly glossy Reston
    magazine which does not generate enough ad revenue to pay for itself &
    costs RA approx $100,000.00 annually. Furthermore, RA plans to renovate
    the RA Central services facility at the approx cost of more than $1 million for
    2016, more than $640,000.00 for 2017 & more than another $770,000.00 for
    2018. Additionally, RA legal fees seem high. Chadwick, Washington was paid approx. $430,683.00
    in 2014. Certainly there should be ways
    to trim that back. Do we really need to have legal counsel at every
    RA board meeting? Do we really need to have legal counsel at the RA board operations
    committee meetings? Mr. Knueven has been
    on the board for 5+ years. He served as
    board president for a number of years. If
    previous RA boards kept assessments too low & didn’t properly fund for RA
    needs, why has RA had a $2.9 – $5.7 million cash surplus from 2010- 2014. Again, we can fund the Pottery Barn &
    similar projects while finding savings in other areas. RA should not start
    planning for future revenues from Tetra, new development, etc until such a time
    such revenues are being generated. The
    RA board still has time to do a much job of setting budget
    priorities, finding budget savings & holding down RA assessment increases.
    The RA board members need to be more frugal & efficient when spending our
    money

    • vachamp

      Pottery barn should be Pony barn…sorry

    • John Higgins

      I join your praise of LaRosa’s and Fulkerson’s efforts this budget season. We criticize enough, deserved praise gets lost too often.

      To the satisfaction of some and the chagrin of others, there has been a steady “scope creep” of the RA mission. Pony Barn is a decent example. Modest renovation was considered, at a modest cost. Current plans and cost are far from modest. The mission of preserving and maintaining common areas was kicked up several notches when RA found part of its mandate to be real estate acquisition to protect against whatever other uses might have been made at the Tetra site. The RA sees deficiencies in state and county maintenance a part of this expanding mission. To those who view limited government to be better government, the growing efforts of RA are distasteful. Those who want to see improvement beyond their personal ability to deliver look to others for that, and it’s usually some level of government. Let’s face it, RA is our government.

      Note, please, that the rising costs of legal assistance are not a matter of excessive use of general counsel time. RA has each member paying $8 to $10 each year so that its board may be informed on what may or may not be going on in the area of land use within our borders…Reston Station, land swap, RNGC, Metro, etc. RA employed additional counsel for that (and now proposes to add staff for this purpose.) Here is the explanation for the growth in legal costs.

      With the pitifully small number of residents participating in RA elections and referenda, I struggle with finding fault in our representatives. The final budget hearing is on Nov 16. My guess is that there will be more comments in Reston Now than the board will receive at its hearing. No one should be surprised by the outcome.

  • Greg

    Two percent increase is still more than the rate of inflation. There still needs to be much more focus on cutting costs and needless frills (as in blowing leaves off the paths yesterday and the useless, but very expensive, no-smoking path signs).

    • LiliKang

      Yeah, but when someone slips and falls or wrecks their bike on the wet leaves lawsuit fears abound. I could do without the signs though. Smokers gonna smoke.

  • Ming the Merciless

    Hands up everyone who got a 4% raise every year since 2011? Anyone? Mine have been 2%. And I was happy to get it every time.

    • Anonymous Too

      Ming, you’re fortunate to get that much…I was downsized out of one job in ’09 (thanks in no small part to the financial sector bozos who gave us the Great Recession )and then watched my latest employer go belly up this past year. And in both cases, I had to accept a 20% cut in salary in addition to reduced benefits. So I was going backwards.

      • Ming the Merciless

        I know it would be wrong to complain that recent “raises” were entirely eaten up by increased health insurance premiums (thanks, Obamacare!)… and that the official “rate of inflation” is an obvious lie… and that everyone else can pass their increased costs on to me, and I can’t make anyone pay more for what I do… but, waaaaaah!

    • OLDER POSTS

      Maybe post less and work harder and you will get what you deserve, unless of course, you show how merciless you are in the workplace also.

      • Ming the Merciless

        If Ming worked harder, that would only mean more people like you sent to the Thorium mines on Polaria.

        But, as you wish.

  • cRAzy

    Hmmm. Social Security recipients haven’t seen anything higher than 2% in recent years, and next year they won’t get one because there isn’t enough inflation.

  • Rational Reston

    The surplus won’t be there to help us in 2017. but the reckless and wasteful spending will live forever!

  • Scott H

    “Old [RA] boards were doing a little ‘let the next board worry about it.’ This board has to step up, be frank tell the public we are going to do something about it.”

    When I moved to Reston in 2001, assessments were something closer to $400. I served on my cluster board and our dues have seen nowhere near the increase of the RA assessment, despite dealing with a 40 year old cluster and a stand of 80-100ft trees.
    What could RA be possibly doing to see this level of increase?
    Run the pools, cut the grass, and maintain the paths.
    Can the printed magazine(it’s 2015) and stop the cowboy Tetra crap.

    Stop the dies increases!

  • JC

    How would we go about getting the Magazine cancelled? It seems like a complete waste in 2015/2016. Just post to website….

    • LiliKang

      I agree with that too. But then we’ll have to address that website……

  • Anonymous

    Reston assessment payers will be paying for RA’s financial perfidy for years to come. We can hardly wait for all that extra revenue from Tetra to come into our pockets! The entire Tetra purchase referendum campaign was a great deception upon Reston residents.

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