Wedell: Altering Assessment Policy ‘Not Something We Should Run Away From’

by Dave Emke February 24, 2017 at 11:30 am 59 Comments

Reston Association Board of Directors/Ray Wedell

Saying Reston Association cannot continue on its current path in collecting assessments, At-Large Director Ray Wedell is presenting ideas for modifying the system.

“This has been a scuttlebutt for many years,” Wedell said as he delivered his presentation Thursday night at the Reston Association Board of Directors meeting. “We have a proposal on the table — it can be altered, can be changed, can be ignored if you want to ignore it. But something has to be out to start the discussion.”

Three separate options were provided by Wedell. In each, the highest-value properties would pay one and a half times the assessment rate, while lowest-value properties would pay only half the rate. The largest amount of units would continue to pay the average rate.

With an assessment rate of $704, that would create tiered payments of $352, $704 and $1,056.

Modified Ad Valorem Assessment Policy/Reston Association/Ray Wedell

In the three options presented by Wedell, the lowest-valued property that could fall into the 150 percent rate category is $550,000. The highest-valued property that could fall into the half-rate category is $275,000.

Wedell said under the current system, 3.1 percent of units do not pay the flat rate, as subsidized properties are already offered a 50 percent assessment reduction. The director said those units would not be part of any policy change and would continue to pay their current rate.

Any policy change would be revenue-neutral, Wedell said, meaning the same total amount would be collected. He also added that altering the structure would “adhere to Reston’s time-honored principle to be fair and equitable to all members.”

Wedell has taken the idea upon himself as a personal initiative. It is not a current priority of the board, Vice President Michael Sanio clarified for meeting attendees.

“We appreciate our members pursuing various issues,” Sanio said. “This particular one is something that Ray has had a real interest in.”

The data provided Thursday by Wedell were only in the form of a presentation to the board; no action was taken.

Changing the assessment formula would require an amendment to the Reston Deed. That would require approval from the Board of Directors, at least 30 percent voter turnout on a referendum, and at least two-thirds approval on that vote.

“These are high hurdles, but it’s not something we should run away from,” Wedell said. “I think it’s time for us to put this on the table.”

  • Brad

    Where in Reston is there a property valued at $87,000?

    • Restoner

      Not sure what you’re asking? You can go on line and do a quick search – you’ll find some condos at that price.

      • Greg

        Nope. Cheapest is $89,900. Thoreau Place.


        • Restoner

          You’re right, my bad. The last time I looked, there were quite a few below $87, but that was a while back. Property values have risen across the board. My guess is that $87K was put in to catch the homes at the lowest end. Not that I’m privy to the workings of mind that put that together.

          • Greg

            My guess is that it was put in place so that few, if any, Reston properties qualify. Let’s not forget that at least one real estate person is on the RA board.

    • John Higgins

      Interesting question. Where does it come from? Well, each year RA obtains a file from the county showing the assessed values of all properties in Reston (used to determine who qualifies for reduced assessment.) So, somewhere out there is a property the county valued +/- $87k. Actually, this is a minor flaw in Mr. Wedell’s chart. At the lower end, it should have been $0 to $xxx. If for some reason properties slipped below the $87k threshold, using that chart they would pay no assessment.

  • Umust B Kidding

    Wow! Didn’t think RA Board could come up with another really stupid idea! Yet they have once again exceeded my expectations.
    Way to go Ray!

    • RestonResident

      I would be totally for this if RA gave homes the option to leave the association. When I bought into Reston I had no idea what was involved. I love the area, most of the people are awesome, but I could do without RA. We have friends on several of the great streets that somehow are not in RA and all the homes are well maintained, the yards are beautiful and there is little difference compared to where we live. RA pools are terrible so we end up still paying to use Lifetime. I am not sure why someone in RA can’t figure out how to update a couple pools, add a great snack bar (maybe with beer?) that can turn a profit. Just look at Glory Days…the food is just awful but it is packed almost every night because they have beer and TV.

      • Restoner

        How can anyone who buys a home – generally the most expensive purchase of their life – not know there are fees and an association in Reston? Real estate agents certainly should tell their clients, and you’re given documents to read before purchase, so you can back out within a certain time period if you don’t want to be a part of a planned community.

        It’s hard to believe your real estate agent didn’t tell you, and if s/he didn’t (which is a sign of an awfully bad agent) you still absolutely had to sign for your documents. So where were you during this transaction?

        • The Constitutionalist

          Yeah, what was that fee in the year 2000? Do you remember? It’s since doubled.

          Good thing you knew that in 17 years your HOA fee would be twice as expensive!

          • Rational Reston

            Twice as expensive with not nearly half the value to the typical Reston resident

    • Restoner

      It’s not the board. It’s Ray. People elected him.

  • cRAzy

    Unless the level of service to a household are linked to the fee they pay, I don’t see how this can work in any equitable way.

  • MakeRestonRestonAgain

    Mr. Wedell. Please focus your time, and that of the board, on identifying new sources of revenue that do not impact the members. If you do not have the experience or expertise to do so, identify someone that is able. Existing contractual vehicles are in place and they could be utilized. In my opinion, this present pursuit of yours is DOA.

  • Reston4Life

    I own two properties in Reston, and i think this is a great idea. Why should a one bedroom condo pay the same assessment as a home with more rooms/more occupants? There is one occupant who pays $700, compared to 2 or 5 occupants who share $700. More occupants at a residence will utilize Reston more than a single occupant. This proposal is logical to me.

    If anyone else has a better idea I would love to read it!

    • Nope

      ” Why should a one bedroom condo pay the same assessment as a home with more rooms/more occupants?”

      Because they both get roughly the same amount of “use” out of Reston and its amenities.

      “There is one occupant who pays $700, compared to 2 or 5 occupants who share $700.”

      Nope. If there are more than two occupants, they are most likely children who do not pay anything towards the $700.

      “If anyone else has a better idea I would love to read it!”

      The best and fairest solution is what we already have: a flat fee for all.

      • The Constitutionalist

        The best and fairest solution would be for you to pay for what you use. Not for what you might use or what you have access to.

        Just because you made bread and offered it to me doesn’t mean I should have to pay for it.
        But, Reston isn’t really about what’s best or fair.

        • Nope

          You use Reston by choosing to live in it. It is best and fair that everyone who lives here should contribute the same amount to maintain it.

          You’re probably one of those miserable people who whines about paying property tax to support the school system “even though I don’t have any kids!”

          • The Constitutionalist

            Oh, here we go. Let’s argue the difference between fair and fairest.

            You’re one of those miserable people that need the rest of us to subsidize everything for you or you wouldn’t have it.

            Thank you, socialism.

        • EZ to Understand

          Of course it’s fair. You had a choice whether to move to a planned community with fees, or not, and you decided to do so. That’s Reston’s fault or yours?

          Besides, fee-for-service isn’t how planned communities survive, except for specialized classes or services. You can’t say, “Well, I won’t pay for maintaining the park because I don’t go to the park.” You think you can wear a monitoring device that registers that you went to the park so should be charged $1.00 per visit?

          This is a lot simpler than the Constitution, by the way.

          • The Constitutionalist

            It isn’t about fault, but I suppose while we’re at it, whose fault is it that since 2000 our RA fees have nearly doubled? Is that my fault?

            This discussion also wasn’t about implementation of the best and fairest way to do it, it’s about what the best and fairest way to do it is.

            If we really want to get down to the nitty gritty, why does a family of two spend the same amount as a family of 7 or 8, or 100?

            Is that fair? Did we ALL pay our fair share?

            Go back to picketing for $15 an hour. Leave the educated economics discussions to those of us with at least a GED.

      • Greg

        Be aware that there are already many fee tiers for RA memberships. Seniors, the poor, those living in cheap housing, section 8, and the newest members are all paying far less than what the rest of us pay.

    • The Constitutionalist

      Why should any occupants have to pay at all if they are never going to use any RA services?

      • Greg

        That’s the best model — there are a lot of gyms and movie theaters and restaurants that we only pay for if we use them.

        The vast majority of what RA takes in is wasted on salaries, benefits, office spaces, lawyers and maintaining assets that are used for just a few months a year.

        • Holycow

          So why did you move here? And why do you stay? You knew there were fees – everything was disclosed before purchase, plus there’s a time period when you can review documents after making and offer when you can bow out. No one is making anyone stay.

          • Greg

            I’ve posted often about these issues. Educate yourself.

            In short: we have no issue with reasonable fees; however, RA fees are no longer reasonable; they are increasing, annually, far faster than inflation and wages; and they are being wasted as I’ve set forth above.

          • Holycow

            You provide a model that’s for privately owned restaurants and movie theaters, so has no basis in reality for a planned community, and suggest I educate myself? 😀 And only now you bring up the issue of reasonable fees and inflation – which may be worth talking about, but you hadn’t mentioned that previously.

          • Greg

            Not at all. In fact, the planned community did not include pool and tennis in the original plan. Those wasteful expenses were forced on everyone despite the referendum vote that did not approve of the change. So, yes, please do educate yourself, including on the unreasonable fees and the gross waste at the RA. Tetra ring any bells?

          • JoeInReston

            “So why did you move here? … You knew there were fees –
            everything was disclosed before purchase …”

            That same argument can be turned against Wedell’s proposal. We all knew the flat fee when we moved in here – including the less affluent who chose to live in Reston any way. Nobody is making anyone stay.

      • Think

        Because there’s no way to monitor if anyone uses most of them or not. You think there’s a sign-up sheet to walk on the trails, walk into the Nature House, or call RA to ask a question? If people don’t want homeowner fees, why on earth do they move to a planned community that has them?! No one can be that ignorant to say they didn’t know.

        • The Constitutionalist

          It isn’t about the implementation of the best and fairest way. It’s about WHAT IS the best and fairest way.

          The other issue isn’t that we have fees, it’s that we have fees that continue to increase, while the members of the community, who are now paying more, are not receiving any additional benefits.

      • MakeRestonRestonAgain

        There are real items requiring dollars from the members. (You do know you are a member, right). For example, did you ever notice the four large dams you drive across as you get around Reston? Who do you think pays for their yearly inspections, maintenance and upkeep – as required by the state and the fed?

        Reston does.

        • Greg

          Actually, Fairfax County should be paying as the “lakes” are considered stormwater management systems. We pay county taxes, and a separate one at that, for stormwater management.

          Why in Reston, just like for the community centers, do we pay twice?

          • MakeRestonRestonAgain

            That may be the case and I need to be educated on that. But, I believe the lakes and dams are complex assets and are on covenanted land. Someone needs to maintain them and good luck getting the county to do that. And heaven forbid they are neglected and perhaps fail.

          • Greg

            A Reston dam is not a complex asset. It’s compacted dirt and a gate. Covenants can change and do all the time.

            Regardless, we are paying twice. Why?

          • 30yearsinreston

            Because its the Reston way

        • 30yearsinreston

          So why shouldn’t the owners of the lakefront properties pay
          They get the benefit

        • The Constitutionalist

          Not really seeing the correlation between paying MORE for the upkeep of non essential amenities and the upkeep of the dams.

          Obviously there are some things that need to be financed through the community.

    • restonista

      Reston4Life- We have 5 bedrooms. We are a married couple with no dependents living in Reston for 12 years. I’ve been the pools twice (which we paid extra for, 2 separate summers so paid the full whack for one visit to the pool) and walk on the paths a handful of times per year. We should not be penalized and be required to pay more.

      • The Constitutionalist

        Well according to the budding Marxists among us, yes you do, it’s only ‘fair’.

    • Fees aren’t Taxes

      Because the services that our fees pay for are available for everyone in Reston, and are not related to property values or taxes. Whether your home is worth 35,000, 50,000, 500,000 or more, everyone has equal access to pools, tennis courts, trails, programs, RA assistance, etc. That is what your fees pay for. They aren’t taxes!

    • Scott

      The proposal has nothing to do with the number of people in a residence. A 90yo in a single family will pay more than a family of 5 in a town home.

  • Bah

    I think Ray Weddell’s assessment should be $15m a year. Because fair and equitable!

  • Reston Realist

    Ray, your socialist idea is not going to fly. In your view, we should all be driving the same car and living in the same size house so that everything remains fair. Life is not fair – get over it… don’t try to legislate it.

    • The Constitutionalist

      That’s Reston for you….

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Alright, progressive RA fees. Now, how many new employees are you going to need to add in order to research assessed value every year?

  • Nigel Phillips

    I could perhaps see the point if the services provided were related to assessment value (as in our Fairfax County taxes) or a head count, but RA is not responsible for roads, lights, water, police, public transport, etc. RA, by its own statements, is a home-owners association, 4th level authority, who’s function in life is essentially parks and recreation and maintaining building standards (architectural and maintenance covenants). All quality of life issues. It’s not as if swimming,pool, tennis court, or boating access on Lake Anne and the use of RA building facilities comes totally included in the current assessment. Yes, there’s a subsidy, but that’s why we pay RA fees. My children our grown up, do I begrudge the subsidized youth programs? Of course not! That’s part of living in Reston.

    An ill-thought out approach. We don’t need another level of assessment. RA needs to keep focused focus on what it’s function is, and avoid attempts to get it into the local authority business.

  • Scott

    RA is a private HOA. Not a government, enacting wealth redistribution through the tax code.
    Everyone moved to Reston knowing the deal. You pay an assessment for pools, paths, and the board’s cowboy efforts to waste our money on overpriced dilapidated lake houses. Everyone has the same access to the same amenities whether you choose to use them or not. Dont forget the magazine!! Town homes cost more for RA to manage as they require more DRB resources so the entire notion of his plan is ludicrous.
    Mr Wendell’s plan would be like a trash company charging 2 neighbors different prices to pick up the same trash.

    DO NOT vote for Mr Wendell! Do NOT give the board an arbitrary way to decide that some RA members will pay more for the same amenities. That is wrong and unjust!

  • Rational Reston

    “We can push the can down the road and say, ‘Let’s look at it later on and analyze it further,’ [but] we have a lot of other things to look at,” he said. “I don’t see this ever happening; I think the objection from the people is too strong, too organized.”

    Mr. Wedell said this in regard to the soccer fields, he should have said this in regard to his own proposal instead.

  • LakeNewportLady

    Why in the world should someone in a property with a higher value pay more than someone with a property with a lower value for the EXACT SAME AMMENITIES?!! Are those paying less going to get less use out of them or subpar versions? This is the dumbest thing I’ve heard lately.


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