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RA’s Latest 2018 Assessment Proposal: $681

by RestonNow.com October 31, 2017 at 2:58 pm 27 Comments

In its most recent public hearing on the proposed budget for 2018, held on Monday evening (video here), members of the Reston Association Board of Directors proposed yet another new assessment rate of $681 for residents.

The rate would equal a decrease of $39 from the 2017 initial proposed rate of $720, which was later reduced to $692 only through the spending of around $550,000 in reserve cash.

Previously, in the first draft of the budget, the assessment rate had been proposed at $678.

On Monday evening, board treasurer and at-large director Sridhar Ganesan said a few changes had brought it back up roughly $3 to $681. Those changes included the decision to pay off the loan on the Lake House renovations using reserve cash, which shaved $8.66 off assessment rates, and changes to the RA pool schedules he said they made in response to resident feedback, which added another $2.88 back on to the rate.

“There was a lot of public request from a pool schedule request. We changed that – we brought a lot of it back to around what the 2016 levels were,” Ganesan explained.

Ganesan said other cost-saving measures had initially allowed the directors to get assessments all the way down to $670, but after the first few budget work sessions and last week’s first public hearing, more changes were made. Those included adding staff coverage for more litter clean-up and the handling of Design Review Board covenants requests, as well as the adding of an additional Parks and Recreation staff member. In addition, Ganesan said healthcare costs for some employees went up slightly with the recent annual enrollment period.

“So, with some changes up and some changes down, we ended up at $681,” he finished.

Only one resident showed up for the public hearing portion of the evening. The woman asked for more maintenance of tennis courts due to high usage, including repaving and cleaning of mold and slime from the courts, which she said are a slipping hazard. Additional lighting was also requested, particularly at courts in the south part of Reston.

Furthermore, the woman asked for a feasibility study for the addition of indoor tennis options.

“It’s something our tennis community has been wanting for a long time,” she said, pointing out that it would allow for year-round lessons and exercise opportunities for residents.

Following the public comments, the meeting was adjourned.

The final vote on the 2018 budget and assessment rate is scheduled to take place at the board’s regular meeting on Nov. 16.

  • letsbcivil2

    I would like to know whether RA believes it can keep raising the assessment indefinitely without taking a look at the issue of disproportionate burden. For example, a couple on a fixed income pays the same as a family that heavily uses RA services. And the continued rise may end up at an assessment rate that some residents just can’t afford. Should they be forced to move? Some measures must be taken to account for the fact that not all Reston residents are affluent.

    • Fact

      And trust me, for these hard cases allowances have been granted and will be granted on an arbitrary basis.

      • Mike M

        More room for shenanigans.

    • JoeInReston

      Do you want assessments to vary by amount of RA services a household uses?
      Do you want assessments to vary by some measure of affluence (likely property value)?
      Or both?

      They are two different things…

      • letsbcivil2

        All I want is for alternatives to be considered, debated.

      • Greg

        I’d suggest both — as has worked for decades in Columbia, MD.

        Everyone benefits from a few RA things (like open space maintenance and enhanced mowing and landscaping) but few benefit from the pools and tennis courts. Fewer still benefit from highly subsidized child care. The first should be value-added assessed and the latter two should be user funded or eliminated if they can’t self-sustain.

    • Mike M

      The problem with this suggestions is that so few households use RA facilities, and RA is so inefficient. So, no one who makes extensive use would be able to afford to pay the full freight on their usage, and they would break and then RA would break. This is the “beauty” of the Socialist construct. It subsidizes gross inefficiency.

    • Greg

      No one on a “fixed income” is forced or has a right to live in Reston. Nevertheless, RA does allow some a reduced assessment:

      “Establish a reduced rate of 50 percent of the Annual Assessment for those property owners who qualify for a real estate tax reduction from Fairfax County. Reduced rates for members in this category have arbitrarily hovered at approximately 50 percent of the general assessment in recent years. The adopted proposal will simply specify the exact reduction rate at 50 percent.”

      Elderly and subsidized housing gets a similar break:

      General Annual Rate $692 per/Lot/Unit
      For properties with a 2016 assessed value below $138,400 0.5% of assessed value per/Lot/Unit
      Fairfax County Tax Reduction Rate
      Federally or State Subsidized Unit Rate $346 per/Lot/Unit
      $346 per Unit
      Elderly Housing Rate $346 per Unit

      https://www.reston.org/Portals/3/2016%20General/Exhibit%20A%20-%20Option%201%20$692%20on%2011-17-16.pdf

  • John Farrell

    So no coverage of the RA meeting from last Thursday where the RA Board voted to send a letter to Sup. Hudgins OPPOPSING the PRC amendment. Or Reston Town Center North plan to turn 10 acres of green space into 10 acres of paving. Or the plan to keep vacant office buildings in place for decades.

    Were you guys going to announce Dave Emke’s leaving RestonNow?

    Is RestonNow going to be reduced to republishing lightly edited press releases from whomever drops them in your e-mail box?

    ‘Cause we can skip that read. Which your advertisers will be happy to hear.

    • Lawyer turned journalist

      I propose a career change.

    • S. Ambrose

      You forgot to mention the plagiarizing of articles from Reston Patch. Sorry, I meant the republication of articles from Reston Patch without attributions.

    • JoeInReston

      Curious, I did some googling and found on Twitter:


      Dave Emke‏ @emkedave
      Oct 16

      This
      is as good a time as any to announce this is my last full week at
      @RestonNow. I’m moving to Raleigh, NC. My last day here is Oct. 25.

      https://twitter.com/emkedave/status/919956490324242432

      Likely leaving because his wife found employment at NC State


      Dave Emke‏ @emkedave
      Oct 16

      Don’t congratulate me; congratulate my wife who has joined the staff at
      NCSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. My congratulations is TBD.

      https://twitter.com/emkedave/status/919957686833336321

      • Greg

        Wow. He didn’t last long.

        • Tammi Petrine

          Hopefully Dave will be snapped up soon… He was an unusually fast learner and did the best job yet for Reston Now. Best wishes to him and good luck to Fatima who takes his place next week. Welcome to Reston, Fatima!

    • Mike M

      “Or the plan to keep vacant office buildings in place for decades.”

      Please clarify. This is an issue of long standing interest to me.

      • John Higgins

        That quote draws on artistic license to make his point. Mr. Farrell refers to a proposal the Planning Commission will take up this Thursday to facilitate “repurposing” of commercial buildings to residential use. RA, on advice of land use counsel, opposes such repurposing outside a half mile from Metro stations. For details, see the RA board’s agenda package for the Oct 26 meeting.

        • Mike M

          It has always perplexed me that certain buildings in Reston’s Dulles Corridor have been mostly empty for at least two decades. That didn’t stop construction of new ones either. Now they struggle. I ask people about this and they are in denial citing overall metro vacancy rates as being low. But there are entire office parks that have been mostly empty since at least 2000, and many earlier. I never understood this. It seems as though there is some incentive to hang on to them and not lower rates to market value. Can anyone shine light on this mystery?

          • Greg

            A big part of it is that the taxes are low, very low, on an unoccupied, or partially occupied, building. Unlike residential property, commercial property is valued based (mostly) on the income it generates as opposed to its intrinsic value.

            Since many of the buildings are owned by corporate entities, underused commercial properties become tax shelters in that their losses can offset profits on other properties. The owners can hold them indefinitely, especially buildings on which no encumbrances exist. It doesn’t cost a lot of keep a building vacant, especially when it is valued and taxed based on the income in generates. The owner warehouses the properties until their better use materializes (say, for example, a metro line is extended), and then flip the unit through a tax-deferred exchange and pay no gains taxes.

            Vacant land is not considered commercial property, but land with a vacant office building on it is. Meanwhile, the building owner is depreciating the building and writing off all operating and maintenance costs. As long as the building is being “marketed” (that is, listed with a broker), neither the IRS nor the VA tax authorities will complain.

            See this for some detail:

            https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dta/commercial_prop.htm

            The key is: “For most commercial properties, fair market value is best determined by capitalizing the property’s income into an estimate of value.”

            This is one of the reasons why Fairfax County if full of see-through, most of them ugly, dated, dysfunctional, buildings — the developers build them quickly and cheaply in boom times and let them fester if they fail to do what they were poorly, if at all, designed to do from the beginning.

            I am sure if you pore through Comstock’s public filings you will see huge write-offs for the upside down “trophy” eyesore at Reston Station.

          • Mike M

            Thanks. Clearly they have incentives to sit on them. This does explain it. I had heard there were tax advantages. Seems we ought to fix that. It subsidizes the Tall Oaks scenario.

  • Rational Reston

    A rolling stone gathers no moss, but apparently well used tennis courts gather mold and slime.

    Or something doesn’t add up.

  • Allison

    What was the 2017 rate?

    • John Higgins

      The 2017 assessment was $692. By the way, according to RA’s September financial reports, that turns out to have been about $12 higher than necessary to sustain operations.

      • Donald

        Interesting. The way the board tells it, they did a lot of heavy lifting to get here, and (on top of that) take full credit for it.

        Donald

        • John Higgins

          I can’t speak to the lifting, but it appears they turned over a lot of stones to find ways to bring down the assessment. I respect the work they did, while disagreeing with major elements of their plan. Once again, RA developed future budgets based on comparison with prior budgets. The comparison should be with prior year actual experience. Only that way might they discover that things they planned were not as costly as they thought or vacant positions as vital to operations as they appear to be on paper.

          And what will become of the $300k surplus in 2017? We are not told. Maybe it is part of the $2.5 million surplus cash that will go to loan payoff. Maybe it is the start of a new pot of excess money. I don’t see that the subject ever came up, and suspect that most directors weren’t invited to consider it.

          • Donald

            Why would the subject never come up?

            While the board pinches pennies at the micro level — they disregard the obvious.

            Why do people on the outside have to ask these questions continuously?

            Donald

  • One LibIknow

    Healthcare costs going up? Then cut them ALL to 29 hrs per week. Let them go into the Obama care exchanges. Open enrollment starts today.

    • letsbcivil2

      what a horrible suggestion since Obamacare is being killed piecemeal by the Trump Administration. Do you have health care coverage? If so, don’t suggest others lose theirs. If not, don’t you think you should?

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