The assessment fees that Reston Association members pay every year are expected to go up again in 2024, based on a newly proposed budget.
To cover the actual costs of running the organization, the annual assessment would need to increase to $872 next year — a 14.3% jump from the $763 that RA charged this year, RA CEO Mac Cummins said in a report to the board of directors.
Last year’s assessment hike was lower than initially anticipated, thanks to a $1 million buydown using a cash surplus, but Cummins has advised against repeating a buydown of that scale, warning that it’s unsustainable and “only delays the inevitable.”
Instead, he recommends taking a more incremental, “bleed in” approach that would involve a smaller cash infusion of $700,000 to bring the 2024 rate down to $840, which would be a 10% increase from last year.
“A dramatic increase in assessment…will lead to unfounded narratives and a communication / transparency breakdown,” Cummins wrote. “…If we were to set aside $1.4 million dollars of cash reserve and put $700,000 into the budget, we could take the excess surplus cash and put it into a money market account and generate some earnings over the next 12 months until it’s again time to use for the 2025 assessment.”
For the upcoming budget, RA has proposed eliminating member fees for recreation passes and certain events, such as the annual “Totally Trucks” event, and instead incorporating those costs into the base assessment.
The move would bring RA more in line with its past practices and those of other homeowners’ associations, according to Cummins. The organization brings in about $400,000 from the recreational pass fees for members, covering only about 15% of the approximately $3 million it takes to operate the pool and tennis facilities.
Pass fees from non-RA members generate about $240,000 in revenue.
“The membership currently subsidizes 85% of the cost of these facilities without access to them,” Cummins said.
According to the draft budget, RA anticipates a 7% increase in operating expenses, driven in part by personnel costs, maintenance needs, an uptick in insurance premiums and “a dramatic rise in costs for many materials and supplies” due to inflation.
While looking at how to reorganize staff to be more efficient, including eliminating staff accountant and communications manager positions, RA has proposed adding positions for a chief financial officer, a land use planner, an information technology director and a business analyst.
The IT director would come as the organization grapples with persistent technology issues and a pending website redesign, while the land use planner would “allow the organization to be far nimbler and more responsive than we currently are,” Cummins wrote.
Other staff-related costs include a $90,000 increase in funds for lifeguard salaries “to be more consistent with the market and allow us to fill necessary slots for our summertime aquatics activities,” according to the report.
RA predicts that approximately $3.2 million will be needed for facility repairs and replacements and other capital projects through 2028. Major investments planned in the next five years include Ridge Heights pool renovations and improvements to the Lake Newport, Uplands, Shadowood and Autumnwood tennis courts.
Staff have pushed the Lake Newport project to 2025, and improvements at the Golf Course Island swimming pool could be paused or scrapped entirely.
“Staff have reduced the investment in Golf Course Island to account for maintenance needs but are not currently planning a major investment in the pool,” Cummins said.
The CEO noted that RA recently completed a community survey to gather member feedback on its parks and recreation needs. The results could prompt revisions to the capital improvements plan.
The draft budget will be presented to the RA Board of Directors when it meets on Thursday (Sept. 28).
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