RA Board discusses programs and services ‘wish list,’ defers assessment talks

On Tuesday night (June 8), the Reston Association Board of Directors talked about their program and services ‘wish lists,’ while deferring a detailed discussion about increasing member assessments in 2022.

The board was supposed to suggest an assessment range to CEO Hank Lynch during the work session, according to the meeting’s agenda.

But an agreement was struck to delay that decision after RA Fiscal Committee Chairman David Kerr recommended that the board start working through its budget plans by focusing on priorities, the cost of them, and operating expenses.

Once those are agreed upon, Kerr recommended figuring out what it will cost and, then, moving to how it could impact member assessments.

“Let’s think about what revenue could be and then see how much we can afford to spend,” Kerr said. “I think a better approach [is] what do we need to deliver and what that’s going to cost…and that way you are focused on what we have to spend as opposed to what we can’t spend.”

This led to more process discussion before giving RA board members a chance to pitch their “wish lists” of programs and services they’d like to see funded.

Among the items suggested were: planting of more trees, further investment in maintaining Reston’s lakes, expanded sidewalks, adding more ADA features to facilities, the hiring of a senior environment officer, and year-around indoor tennis courts.

One board member also requested assistance for members who can’t afford to pay member assessment dues.

“There are members who don’t necessarily qualify for [county] assistance, but are definitely struggling,” noted RA board member Sarah Selvaraj-D’​Souza. “We do have assistance programs available, but there’s a gap between those that are eligible and ones that can afford [assessment dues] comfortably.”

Lynch acknowledged that he’s received a number of hardship letters over the last year from members and recommended working with RA’s nonprofit arm Friends of Reston on that.

According to RA by-laws, the association has no authority to assist with membership assessments.

“We cannot remove someone’s obligation who is a member here to pay the membership assessment,” Lynch said. “Do I have authority to give or reduce or do anything to help individuals? The way the bylaws are written, we cannot.”

There was also a brief discussion of an “events barn” that could host arts, music, and food festivals. It would be a good way to increase non-assessment revenue, RA board member John Mooney said.

Member assessments were a hot topic of conversation at the RA Board of Directors meeting last week. A general conclusion was reached that an assessment increase is likely needed due to rising operational expenses as well as the plethora of capital improvement projects that need to be planned for over the next few years.

The assessment currently sits at $718, but additional expenses could mean a 6% increase — or nearly $40 — in 2022.

In a poll earlier this week, Reston Now asked readers if they support an RA assessment increase. 63% of respondents voted for keeping the assessment rate at its current level.

At the end of the meeting, the board deferred any further discussion about member assessments to the next budget work season, possibly in July.

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