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Reston Association Locks in $657 Member Assessments for 2016

by Karen Goff — November 20, 2015 at 10:30 am 18 Comments

Reston Association Board MeetingReston Association’s Board of Directors on Thursday approved a $16.9 million budget for 2016-17, which sets the member assessment rate at $657 for next year.

The $657 annual assessment is a 2-percent increase from 2015. The amount was held in check from rising closer to $700 when the board voted several weeks ago to use a surplus of $1 million to minimize the assessment fee increase.

The 2015 member assessments were $642. Overall, rates have risen $67 since 2013. See the assessment rates since 2000 on this previous Reston Now article.

The 2017 assessment rate will be determined later next year when additional budget adjustments are made. However, an additional $1 million won’t be available, so the assessments could rise closer to the $718 cap, RA treasurer Dannielle LaRosa said at a budget meeting two weeks ago.

Members can pay in one payment or in six installments. There is also a reduced rate for members whose properties are valued at $132,000 or less.

“For the first time ever, the board took the opportunity to utilize a portion of the association’s operating cash surplus to fund some of the 2016 capital projects,” RA President Ellen Graves said. “The transfer of $1 million of excess operating cash in 2016 now makes it possible for RA to move forward with all proposed capital projects with association members funding a smaller portion in 2016 than would otherwise have been possible if the operating cash surplus were not available.”

Graves outlined some of the association’s goals for 2016:

Increased monitoring and advocacy of land-use matters with a focus on new residential development projects enhanced multimodal transportation infrastructure, a comprehensive plan for pedestrian/pathway lighting, and the establishment of design guidelines for new mixed use/urban projects in Reston.

Utilizing the services of a grant-writing firm to identify funding opportunities for capital projects and recreational programming.

Investment in new technology to provide members with a greatly improved online experience for pool and tennis pass purchases, RA Camp and program registrations, financial processes and electronic document access.

Expanded mowing, trimming, weeding and curb cleaning of roadways under VDOT control in Reston. The association will be seeking reimbursement from VDOT for these services.

Maintenance and improvements to RA pools, pavilions, lakes and ponds, ball fields and tennis facilities.

The board also voted to direct Chief Executive Officer Cate Fulkerson to provide the board with a report on any proposed amendments or modifications to the 2017 Operating & Capital Budgets no later July 2016 and the direct the Chief Financial Officer to provide the board with an end-of-year 2015 cash analysis in February 2016 and a mid-year cash analysis to the board in July 2016.

RA plans more than $5 million in capital repair and replacements in 2016 and 2017, including a remodel of the Pony Barn Recreation Area; replacement of several baseball backstops; buying two buses for camp transportation; and an overhaul of the Central Services facility.

The RA Board discussed looking into a fee structure change for upcoming years to reflect property values and household income. Doing so would require a change to the Reston deed, said RA attorney Ken Chadwick.

“The higher the assessment gets the more we have to look at whether it makes sense that a 700 square-foot condo has to pay the same as a 5,000 square-foot lakefront property,” said Lake Anne/Tall Oaks Director Eve Thompson. “We just have to remain sensitive to the reality of living in a fiscally diverse environment.”

  • Chuck Morningwood

    A 2% increase, eh? And, just out of curiosity, what was the rate of inflation for 2015? Somehow, I’m betting that it’s less than the ratified increase.

  • restonresident

    The ADDITIONAL cost of living in Reston.
    Reston Association (RA) fees of $657, additional Small District 5 property taxes of .0047 per $100 ( about $235 for a $500k home) to fund the Reston Community Center (RCC) plus tolls of $ 1400 ( if you commute beyond Tysons 200 days a year) and cluster fees (?)
    So compared to other Fairfax County residents it costs at least a minimum $ 892 (657+235) in just RA and RCC fees.
    And what do we get in return: some nice paths and lakes, subsidized swimming and tennis and an old community center.
    If you don’t use any of these facilities and the fast majority do not that’s a lot of wasted money.
    Plus we have to pay ever increasing tolls on the what was until recently the only toll road in the county.
    Its just not fair!

    • Greg

      You forgot the (old) Tetra building. Value beyond measure!

      Oh, and our pitch-black-at-night streets and neighborhoods. Because? It’s charming to live in the dark.

  • Greg

    Eve Thompson — it makes no sense now and never has. Even the car tax is based on a vehicle’s value. Fiscally diverse people own fiscally appropriate vehicles and abodes. It’s truly shameful that the RA penalizes the fiscally diverse with fixed-rate assessments.

    • John Higgins

      There are solid arguments for tying RA assessments to property value, led by the “ability to pay” theory. Likewise, one might argue that the benefits of membership (access to pools, tennis courts, paths, natural areas, etc.) have nothing to do with the value of one’s residence. Does the owner of a high-value house get three of four times the enjoyment of RA facilities compared with the owner of a one bedroom condo? But some favor having them pay such a multiple. How about a per capita assessment? Why should a single person pay the same as a family of six?

      Personally, I view this membership assessment as more of a tax than dues and I favor the ad valorem approach. At the same time, I’m eager to hear other approaches. Someone might come up with a scheme that has appeal to the diverse views on what it is we are buying and how we might pay for it more equitably. Maybe that someone will be Greg.

      • Greg

        I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Since the RA inappropriately behaves like government, it may as well be government in which case today’s burdensome and too high assessment will become an ad valorem deductible tax for all who pay it. The higher the tax bracket in which one finds himself, the more of the RA tax then benefits the taxpayer.

        Since the government owns mostly the least expensive units in Reston, it should then have to take fewer of my dollars to pay its share of the RA’s assessments/taxes.

        As to per capita charges, we once had that for pools and tennis. After asking the RA assessment payers whether pool and tennis charges should be rolled into the general assessment, and receiving a NO vote the RA defiantly rolled in the then-$60 extra charge into the general assessment anyway. Pools and tennis should be self sustaining and should not be paid for by the vast majority of those RA assessment payers who never use them — especially the pools which we can’t use for 9 or more months of the year when they are closed and there are any number of private and public entities providing identical and year-round pool and tennis services.

        RA facilites enjoyment is arguable. My argument is that there are far too many RA facilities, and most of them are underused and enjoyed by far too few regardless of financial status. As some Brutalist whose name I’ve forgotten best said, “less is more.”

  • Greg

    Utilizing the services of a grant-writing firm to identify funding opportunities for capital projects and recreational programming.

    Why can’t the highly paid RA staff do this? No skills beyond those acquired in a Fairfax County school are needed.

    • John Higgins

      This a return on investment issue. If the RA can spend X to secure X+Y in grants, what’s not to like? (Assuming the grants replace money that would otherwise come from members’ pockets.).

      There are thousands of grant opportunities and it is not a matter of simply going through a catalogue to find them. Likewise, winning a grant in competition with many others has become an art form. Maybe it shouldn’t be so, but organizations that hire specialists achieve better results than those that apply their own, inexperienced, resources. Let’s give RA a chance to demonstrate the ROI. It may well safe us money.

    • VSanders

      Grant writing is an art, and it’s best done by folks who do this well. You wouldn’t want a grant writer doing dental work on your teeth would you?

  • Mike M

    If High School kids had the power to tax, I think it would look a lot like this.

  • Sec8

    Do all the wonderful people living a Ceder Ridge apartment have to pay the fee too? So that their children can swim in the many pools?

  • msinva

    RA taught me to never, ever purchase a home in an HOA again. Ever.

  • VSanders

    HOA fees exist across this nation, they’re the same just like in Reston… shared among all property owners. Think about, the landlords who own apartment homes pay for the lessees (and the lessors pay it in their rent, too).

    The great thing here in Reston if you choose to live here, is the Association makes a great effort to keep the area looking great and keep value up… be thankful… or you could have a purple or pink house next to you.

    When I’m driving home on the toll road and get off at Reston, I thank my luck stars I’m not going any further, west, north or south, and thank goodness I’m not going anywhere near Route 7, Route 28, I-66, I-95 or I-495. “You could’ve been home already if you lived in Reston”.

    Plus, when you’re driving out to Dulles Town Center for dinner after work and you see all those folks sitting on 28 or the Greenway, you say to yourself, boy am I glad I live in the Reston area.

    Just sayin’.

    • Greg

      If you are so delighted to be in Reston, why are you driving elsewhere to eat? Especially after you have already driven from elsewhere, and paid a toll, to get to Reston?

      • VSanders

        While Reston and the Town Center has wonderful restaurants and eateries, we do venture out Greg beyond the boundaries to enjoy the fare in Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington, Prince William and DC scene.

  • VSanders

    Let’s remember the cost of Mr. Simon’s vision for Reston…

    http://www.reston.org/Portals/3/2015%20GENERAL/Robert%20Simon's%20Seven%20Goals.pdf

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