Reston Association Board of Directors elections begin March 7. Reston Now is running Q-and-As with candidates this week. Meet Dannielle LaRosa, who is seeking re-election to the North Point director’s seat. She is running unopposed.
Reston Now: What makes you want to serve — or continue to serve — on the RA Board?
Dannielle LaRosa: I love this job! I have enjoyed representing you, making sure that you are informed of changes in our community and making it my priority to protect your assessment dollars. During 2015, my efforts yielded savings of $50 to every member’s assessment; a proposed assessment increase of $65 was limited to $15.
I want to serve on the Board because I would like to continue to protect your assessment dollars, maximize the return you receive and ensure that funds are spent for the greatest good of the community. My extensive financial background brings a unique perspective to RA’s board. I will continue to focus on RA’s financial policies, systems and results. I’d also like to identify alternative payment options that will make it easier for our members to pay the annual assessment.
RN: What is the biggest issue facing RA right now and do you have an idea to improve it?
DL: The biggest issue is future development and how RA effectively manages that development while maintaining Reston’s unique character and community. RA’s land use attorneys will be critical in efforts to monitor and manage this development. It is also imperative that RA continues to foster effective relationships and provide numerous avenues for communication with our members, with developers and with the county. Members must know that their opinions are needed, are valued and will make a difference.
RN: How can RA members better understand what the board does and how can they be better involved in improving our community?
DL: A great place to start would be to attend a Board meeting or watch it at home on YouTube. You can also participate in one of the many RA committees, attend your cluster meeting or, most importantly in my opinion, contact your District Board representative. At a high level, the Board is responsible to you, RA’s members, to ensure that RA meets its goals.
The Board sets the policies and strategies needed to attain our members’ goals and maintains relationships with other community and government organizations. On a daily basis, my job has been to listen and take action on our members’ needs, concerns and ideas.
RN: Some of the criticism of RA recently is wasteful spending, lack of transparency and rising assessments. What can be done to improve or at least improve perceptions of all of these things?
DL: I understand and share the frustration with the rising assessment. The more comments received on these issues the better. A constant dialogue between members, staff and the Board will only improve the outcomes. I’d like to address each concern individually.
Wasteful spending. This is one area where I focus my time and attention. During the past budget cycle, the Board and RA staff dug into each expense category and RA program to determine 1) if it was wanted and 2) how could we reduce its cost. Each program was reviewed in terms of the financial and member benefits. I do not believe that there is waste in RA’s spending, but there are always opportunities for improvement. We will keep working to ensure that your assessment is used wisely.
Transparency – The Board needs to communicate, involve and reach out to its members. Constantly. There is too much at stake in terms of dollars and community welfare for a perception of secrecy to exist. I believe that the Board has gone to great lengths to address transparency but it cannot rest on past efforts. I believe that district meetings should be held and that the District Representatives should constantly reach out to its members. A constant dialogue on this issue will always be needed and welcomed.
Rising Assessments – When reviewing the assessment, the foremost thought in my mind is that “this is our members’ money.” I wholeheartedly understand that these dollars must be respected and put to good use. I will continue to champion lower assessments and identify cost savings measures. However, I believe that RA’s assessment is lower than what we would pay if our services were provided by other organizations. In addition, and unlike other governmental organizations, the money that Restonians pay into RA stays in Reston for our benefit.
That said, the Board must continuously monitor the assessment to make sure it is at the proper level and that RA is not writing blank checks to itself. We need to make sure that 1) each dollar spent will benefit the members; 2) we continuously review and determine where technology could improve services and reduce costs; 3) identify additional sources of revenue; 4) review past performance to make sure that we have not over- or under-charged for the assessment; and 5) make it easy and more management to pay the assessment.
Most importantly, we need for our members to let us know what level of services, amenities and programs you want and don’t want.
RN: 2016 and beyond is an important time for Reston’s growth as several large residential developments are in the works, and most of the residents will be RA members. What can the board do in the next few years to adequately prepare to serve thousands more people?
DL: It is critical that the Board continues to collaborate and foster excellent relations with the county and developers. We need Fairfax County to invest dollars according to where those dollars came from. I’d like to see Reston’s tax dollars and proffers spent on Reston — on our roads, facilities and other county services — and that Reston has a say in terms of what is coming, how it looks and how it is maintained. Most importantly, I would especially like to avoid having an additional taxes imposed upon Reston to pay for these improvements.
Lastly, one of the most critical things for any Board to do is to keep the members involved of any new development. We need member input to prioritize the right programming, facilities and resources for our members.
Photo of Dannielle LaRosa courtesy of Reston Association.