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RA Board Will Consider Stepped Assessment System

by Karen Goff — August 26, 2016 at 11:30 am 79 Comments

Reston AssociationReston Association is in the early stages of determining the assessment amounts for for 2017, which may for the first time include options other than a flat-rate payment.

RA members have always paid the same amount annually ($657 in 2016), whether the household is a single apartment dweller or a large family in an expensive house.

At-large director Ray Wedell appealed to fellow board members last month that it was part time to change the system to make it more fair. He compared it to real estate tax, which is paid according to the value of a property.

“This is an issue 100 percent of the people would get behind,” Wedell said at the Board’s July 28 meeting.

RA CEO Cate Fulkerson said at a special board meeting this week she has directed staff to look into the issue and report some assessment breakdown possibilities at the board’s September meeting.

Meanwhile, though, the board has been asked to look at assessment options for 2017 that remain flat-rate payments.

For 2016, the RA Board voted to move $1 million on reserves that allowed the association to raise assessments $15 (2 percent) from the previous year and keep the number well below the maximum $718 allowed by RA bylaws.

Fulkerson said there may be similar money available for 2017. She asked the board at the special meeting to consider these options:

Option 1 – Use surplus cash of $1.1 million to help fund operating expenses and repair, replacement and reserve funds. Assessments would ride by $1, to $658.

Option 2 – Use surplus cash of $1 million. Raise assessments $6, to $663.

Option 3 – Use surplus cash of $500,000. Raise assessments $30, to $687.

Option 4 – Offer no surplus cash to other funds. Raise assessments $55, to $712.

The cap for 2017 assessments is $750.

The board will discuss the options, as well as the new tiered approach, in September.

See Fulkerson’s entire budget presentation on RA’s website.

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Considering Reston is supposed to be affordable for people across the income spectrum, I think it’s a great idea to have RA membership fees be on a sliding scale. If those on free & reduced lunch could get free RA membership or very nominal dues (maybe $10-20 per family member), that would be best.

    • clambj

      Except for the fact that the people you are referring to most likely rent.

      • Arielle in NoVA

        A lot of them, yes. Some own small townhouses, I’m sure.

    • Nyla J.

      Best for you, terrible for me. I already subsidize enough for other people.

    • Reston Crimewatcher

      I am sick of hearing about what Reston is supposed to be. Simon is dead. There is nothing so eternal as change. If you can’t afford to pay, then leave.

      • Arielle in NoVA

        “If you can’t afford to pay, then leave.” <– explicitly NOT a Reston value.

        • Reston Crimewatcher

          Don’t tell me what Reston values are.

      • Richard

        By that logic, you should be in favor of a change to the assessment structure. Too expensive for you? As one commenter once said,
        “If you can’t afford to pay, then leave.”

    • JoeInReston

      This is not the same as federal or state progressive tax structure. Reston Association monies are going to nice to have amenities – pools, walking trails, unforeseen lake house improvements. These amenities aren’t essential to life. They aren’t going to a military budget to defend the town. People who don’t want to pay for these amenities don’t have to live in Reston.

  • Mike M

    “This is an issue which 100 percent of the people would get behind,”

    Sorry, Ray. Your presumption that social engineering is always appreciated is dead wrong.

    I am not for paying more so that others can pay less. That is the standard slippery slope of Socialism. My income, wealth, or housing investment is not the business of RA. Seems like every time my efforts pay off, the Rays of the world come around with their hand out. It is as though RA wants to chase certain people out of Reston.

  • Ming the Merciless

    Everyone should pay the same because everyone gets the same use out of Reston facilities regardless of the size of their house. I don’t get “more” out of the pools or tennis courts than someone who lives in a condo.

    Fairness: those who receive the same service pay the same amount.

    Last but not least it is spectacularly inappropriate to talk about reduced assessments for anybody when our out-of-control RA Board has incurred additional unnecessary expenses that we ALL have to pay for.

    • Adam

      You are off base on (we all get equal use). Many of us, work are asses off and don’t get to comment on here all the time. There could be facility opt out clauses, that would allow those who choose not to uitilze the pools, whatever house RA just bought (agree with you on that point) etc to pay a smaller amout, covering costs of maintainance but useage costs would be deffered.

      • Ming the Merciless

        Nah. Your property value benefits from being in Reston whether you use the facilities or not, so you should pay to maintain them.

      • Mike M

        Adam, congratulations, I’ve decided to give you some of my valuable advice for free:
        1) It’s not how hard you work. It’s the results you get.
        2) You can read most of the daily record on RN in less than 15 minutes a day.
        Thank you for your time. Now strap that arse back on and get wit it.

      • Scott H

        You can. You can choose not to live in Reston. These are not new things. Herndon, Vienna, and Fairfax are only minutes away.

      • James

        Clearly a single person gets less use than a family of 6.

    • Answers pls

      Examples:

      . Family of 5 with kids, uses pools. Combined income, him + her 110k

      . Family of three, uses pool.
      Single parent, she makes 70K

      . Elderly couple, does not use RA
      Combined income 240K

      . Single Person, uses RA
      Has two renters that use RA
      Combined income 375K

      Etc. So based on these examples a stepped system is grossly unfair. Of you go by home assessed value then it’s basically a tax. So also true, if you go by income assessed fee. None of this makes sense.

      Just because CEO and board makes a mistake, thee whole system has now to be turned upside down.

      My question, without sounding ridiculous- when are the guilty parties of Lake house going to resign? When are they going to step up and say, I did a bad job just pay me a dollar a year? When are they going to stop telling lies and fudging future budgets to make it look like nothinh happened?

      And, can we ever get back to normal again with RA and how it operates?

      • Overrunhell

        I think the only one championing this from the board’s perspective is Ray Wedell. Still trying to figure him out. Is he that ignorant, or is it all an act?

    • James

      I don’t understand why I, as a single person, pays the same amount as a family of 6. They obviously use the amenities more than me just based on the number of people. I’m all for a tiered system.

      • Ming the Merciless

        The amenities need to be maintained and repaired whether you use them or not.

        You should be MUCH more concerned about the RA wasting hundreds of thousands on stupid stuff than about the possibility that you might be paying a few tens of dollars “too much” in your assessment.

        • Greg

          Tens of millions is more like what the RA wastes.

  • Yimby

    It doesn’t matter cuz I buy my pool and tennis passes from the dark net.

  • edgyone

    The hidden subtext is “how do we pay for tetra?” This is a move to get more money for tetra and other boondogles.

    • Mike M

      Oh! Why didn’t they just call it “revenue diversification?” That has the same effect upon me as the rubbing of the tunny has on an alligator. I just go right into blissful stupor.

  • Nyla J.

    This is garbage. Is there a way to opt or of RA altogether, aside from moving? I really don’t know what I get from paying into RA. My cluster HOA pays for trash and snow. Taxes pay for infrastructure and community services. Can we start a revolution, please?

    • Absurdity

      Why on earth did you move to a planned community with well documented fees and disclosures before you purchased, and probably a real estate agent who explained how it worked as well?

      As for what you get, many people don’t go to pools, use tennis courts, walk the trails, etc. But if you live here you support the infrastruction – similar to how people without kids pay for schools with taxes. If you don’t like it, moving works.

      • Reston Crimewatcher

        Some of us purchased 30 years ago. Fees were about 325 a year then. So now they are double that and rising. When will it stop? And services have gotten worse, not better. Pools shut down every day because phones don’t work. Who the hell has ever heard of phones not working in this day and age? RA SUCKS.

        • Adam

          Agree. RA sucks. Nothing more than a launching pad for poloticians looking to get on the FFX BOS

      • Nyla J.

        You’re new here. I’m not, which is why I don’t like the ever increasing assessments. You think you’re getting something awesome. I know I’m getting something subpar.

        • Reston Crimewatcher

          Nyla gets it.

        • Ann S

          Several years ago I met with the president of the Reston Association to tell him my concerns. He told me that the RA has a problem with residents, and is trying to encourage many to move out, because they are not behind the Association plans. He mentioned that the population of Reston is ageing most of the residents shouldn’t live there anyway. In their view, we are there to support the Reston Association, not the other way around.

          • JoeInReston

            “He told me that the RA has a problem with residents, and is trying to encourage many to move out, because they are not behind the Association plans. He mentioned that the population of Reston is ageing most of the residents shouldn’t live there anyway.”

            This is a shocking statement. Most politicians, even if they believed that, wouldn’t be stupid enough to express it in that way.

          • AnnS

            Trust me, he was that stupid. Apparently this is a big topic of discussion among those who run the RA.

          • Ming the Merciless

            Heh, if you have ever had any communications with the RA board you would not be shocked. They will not even pretend to care about Reston residents. In some ways their candid disinterest is refreshing compared to the transparently fake “sympathy” one receives from our slimy local politicians.

          • Not constructive

            Half the problems reston has stem from gossip. You re just the tip.of the ice berg

      • Longtime Resident

        When I moved here 30 years ago, you could opt out of the pools and pay a low assessment. Of course, the RA overspent, so that went out the window. They had such a bad reputation that they actually changed their name (was RHOA, or Reston Homeowners Association). Please understand that many of us signed on to something very different when we moved here. And telling us to move will not solve the problems of Reston

      • RestonGrandma

        It’s easy to say if you don’t like it move. I have lived here for 46 years and moving is easier said than done. With the real estate taxes, the special tax district taxes, RA fees, condo fees, and now proposed additional meals tax, parking at RTC, friends from other areas are shocked at how much I pay to live in Reston. It is definitely starting to seem not worth it but where to go? i know it is a common thing to think that things used to be better but it was better when we came and Reston had 3,000 people and it was a leap of faith to move so far away from the city. Sure has changed and not for the better. Sorry you all didn’t know it then.

        • JoeInReston

          I don’t think you’ll find much disagreement, particularly about the Reston Association fees. The better answer is to cut the Reston Association dues – accepting that some services will have to be cut. I still can’t fathom where everybody’s $718 is going.

  • rabbit

    They compare this to a tax but our Assessment fees are not taxes. Reston is a homeowners association and I fear implications if they begin treating fees like taxes. Everyone should have to pay the same fee for services that Reston provides.

  • Reston Crimewatcher

    NO WAY RAY. Everyone gets same services (or lack thereof), so everyone pays the same. I WILL NOT PAY AT ALL IF THEY DO THIS. They can sue me. I don’t care. RA wastes so much money then spends all their time trying to find a way to get more out of us. Cut payroll. Cut hours. Put them on Obamacare. Fire Fulkerson. But not one more dime of assessments. You guys just don’t get it.

    • RestonNiceGuy

      hehehe– I like it. NO-WAY-RAY! Good name! I agree, why would you charge someone more just because they own a bigger house? Do they swim more, walk more or do anything more?

      • BOHICA

        Ray is a renter. He doesn’t pay any assessment!

      • James

        Yes, if there are more people in a large house instead of a small condo, which makes sense, they do get more use.

  • MJay

    Due to the extremely costly and ham-handed Tetra/Lakehouse debacle combined with the lesser costly but equally ham-handed Pony Barn debacle, I honestly don’t trust this board and CEO to implement anything of significance. The board can start to earn some trust by, at a minimum, eliminating the numerous use restrictions attached to the Lakehouse property that serve to only benefit a handful of lakefront homeowners while cutting into the ability to recoup some of the losses, and 2) remove the CEO who has a demonstrable record of incompetence and naivety.

    • Sell now

      Sell the lake house. Now that we are in control of who the buyer may be, we should be good.

      Candidates:

      Sierra Club
      Audubon
      UN heritage site

      Etc.

  • JoeInReston

    Curious – is it possible for a cluster as a whole to opt out of the Reston Association?

    No, I am not advocating such a move for any cluster. Let me repeat, I am not advocating such a move for any cluster. I am wondering about the possibility of affluent clusters opting out (if its possible) if they feel the would be tiered assessment structure is too heavily imbalanced.

    • BOHICA

      Cameron 1 opted out of the small tax district (RCC).

    • John Higgins

      No, Joe, there is no opt out option. Membership is mandatory under the t sameerms of our individual property deeds. The same is true of cluster membership.

      • JoeInReston

        Thanks for the info…

      • Nyla J.

        How did Deepwood opt out? (I think that’s the name of the cluster.)

        • John Higgins

          Nyla, Deepwood didn’t opt out. That section, along with at one other (between Glade and Fox Mill) were not part of RA from the beginning and they have not to chosen to ask to become members. Perhaps someone from the Reston Museum can fill us in on the history.

          Likewise, residents don’t get to opt out of small tax districts. The boundaries are drawn by the Board of Supervisors to conform to the county’s district lines and the master plan.

          • Nyla J.

            Got it. Thanks.

          • BOHICA

            Cameron 1 was allowed to opt out of small district 5

  • BOHICA

    Ray is a renter. He doesn’t pay any assessment.

    • JoeInReston

      He does indirectly.

  • Scott H

    Ray is wrong.
    RA is a member association, not a government entity instituting a progressive tax system.
    Each RA member receives the same benefits regardless of the type or size of dwelling they live in. In fact, smaller denser housing probably has easier access to trails and other RA resources so smaller dwellings likely get more for their assessment money.

  • John Higgins

    I’n not at all sure stepped assessment system is better, and I’m not sure it is worse. Let’s see a few new ideas before rejecting change.

    For those who know or don’t remember, there was a time when assessments were a lot lower because there was a separate substantial fee paid by those who wanted to use the pools. It didn’t work too well in those days, and probably would not now, but I’m open to hearing the pros cons.

    If someone can make the case that our property values are enhanced by Reston being what it is, then it follows that the higher one’s home value, the greater the benefit to being an RA member. Let’s see what the argument sounds like.

    • Overrunhell

      How’s that fence walk going captain?

      • John Higgins

        Quite comfortable up here but pretty crowded, thanks for asking. On one side of the fence we see a sign-up sheet for those who favor the proposed change to the assessment structure. It is understandably blank, becuase no proposal has been formulated. On the other side we see a tailgate party of those opposed. We can see that they are having fun, but it seems odd that they find the current assessment structure so perfect that any change is unacceptable.

        I don’t want to spoil the party for those insistent that all RA members should pay the same amount…when the time is right, you might gently remind them that today there are four assessment levels and with Reston Station there will be added at least one more.

        • Overrunhell

          You’re absolutely right. Perhaps Ray Wedell needs to read the Reston Documents himself. Alas, I suspect that’s asking too much of someone who has an ego like his.

  • WhyNot-RFK

    Thank you, Ray Wedell, for proposing a fairer assessment regime for Reston. Your initiative is consistent with the Simon progressive vision for our community. I suspect you are correct that a majority of the community would support you

    The Browns Chapel upper crust will go ballistic against, of course, likely with RA CEO help.

    • Reston Crimewatcher

      Simon is dead, as are his socialist ideas.

      • 30yearsinreston

        A rich socialist

  • Overrunhell

    “No-Way-Ray” says it best. I’ve observed this individual in various board meetings and have just one thing to say.

    http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/08/04/how-to-spot-a-narcissist/

    How did he get on the board?

  • M Wilford

    Why stop there? How about letting everyone own a BMW and a 5k sq. ft. house. If you can’t afford it, the other households will make up the difference.

  • JAG

    Can we look at the fees charged for those living outside of Reston first…$530 for a family pass to the pools for non-Reston residents? How bout doubling those first before hitting us up again. Additionally, why do we have two fees? RA fee and RCC tax? Can’t we push to combine those and achieve some savings there?

    • JoeInReston

      You can only squeeze that juice so far before the amount of revenues pulled in decrease.

  • FormerRestonResident

    It is my understanding that Reston Town Center condo owners do not have to pay the RA assessment? Is that true? That includes several other pockets of Reston? I think everyone should pay to make it fair.

    • BJW

      It is true.

    • cRAzy

      None of the Dulles Corridor (Metro station areas) is in RA a priori, although RA is trying to persuade developers to include their new residents in RA–such as Comstock’s Reston Station.
      Also, Deepwoods TH development is not in RA and has no intention of ever becoming part of it. It has its own pool and tennis courts adjoining RA’s trails.

      • FormerRestonResident

        Thanks, I’m surprised people paying the RA fees do not come together to protest this? Why should they pay yet other pockets do not. Glad I sold my house. Dealing with the HOA constantly peering into our back yards and giving us fines was horrible. Then on top of that dealing with RA fines. Not fun…

      • John

        Deepwood has it’s own awful HOA, it costs more and does less. I wish Deepwood would just join the RA and be done with it.

    • Greg

      Reston Town Center is not part of RA (and its residents and unit owners pay no RA assessments). It has its own association and assessments: the Reston Town Center Association,

      http://restontc.org/

      • FormerRestonResident

        So they pay a condo fee and a RTC fee? Wow… Still not fair that they are not included in the RA assessment.

  • cRAzy

    Why shouldn’t everyone (except for the very poor who already pay a discounted RA assessment fee) pay the same for the same services? Wedell is both ill-informed on current policy and proposing a stupid one.

    • Richard

      There are two arguments that would make sense. 1. If you assume that all the homes in Reston benefit with the same percentage of value thanks to RA’s services, then the more expensive properties benefit at a much higher dollar value than the least expensive ones. They receive an unequal benefit so they should pay an unequal share of the costs. 2. If you value younger and less-affluent workers living in the area to work in the ubiquitous entry-level or low-wage jobs necessary to support the economy and the more affluent residents’ standard of living, then it makes sense to scale back their cost to live here and reapportion those costs to those who are more capable of paying.

      • cRAzy

        So why should the benefit (if any) be based on percentage vice dollar value?
        So why shouldn’t we scale back the costs for EVERYONE? (Oh yeah, there’s that Tetra fiasco thing!)
        It is highly Marxist to say, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Let’s not go there.

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