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As deliberations on next year’s budget continue, Reston Association is holding a public hearing to get feedback from members next week.
RA’s Board of Directors is also contemplating a number of policy directives, including passing on credit card fees for processing members’ and nonmembers’ payments from the organization to individuals. Other issues before the board include expanded health benefits for employees, overall compensation packages and merit-based salary increases.
The first year of the 2018-2019 budget was approved last year. The second year will be approved by the board in mid-November.
Photo via Reston Association/YouTube
After hearing a detailed presentation of the Hook Road Working Group’s Master Plan, Reston Association board members on Thursday night voted to include $50,000 in the 2019 budget for architectural, engineering and design work to help the project move forward.
Featuring improvements on everything from play areas to permanent bathrooms to traffic calming measures, HRWG members Stu Gibson and Aaron Webb, along with capital projects manager Chris Schumaker, provided a detailed presentation of the master plan Thursday night, with special emphasis on the priorities they identified through public engagement meetings over the past year.
The first priority the group identified was public safety. Members suggested adding “bump-outs” to Fairway Drive that would narrow the road at certain points and act as a natural traffic calming measure, by forcing cars to slow down in order to navigate through the narrowed sections. While the bump-outs would require approval from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Gibson said VDOT would be identifying its own needs in order to accommodate the newly designed park, so the idea would be to try and piggy-back on any improvements VDOT will want to make.
Other priorities identified by members of the community and working group alike included better lighting for the tennis courts.
The second proposed improvement also had to do with safety. The group proposed pushing the park’s two baseball diamonds closer together and further into the park. Gibson said this would add an extra layer of protection for cars in the parking lot, making it harder for balls to fly that far and potentially hit vehicles, as well as push spectators further back from the road and away from cars.
“This will also afford the community an extra layer of accessibility that is not enjoyed now, while also preserving the tree line,” Gibson explained to the Board. “The community was adamant about not wanting to disturb that tree line, which basically bisects that part of the park down the middle.”
Gibson said another priority that countless members of the community asked for was the installation of a permanent bathroom, to replace the aging porta-potty that sits there now. The group proposed the creation of a new building that features a covered picnic pavilion on one side, with two permanent bathroom stalls on the other side.
The only question about the proposed bathroom was whether or not the RA’s budget can afford the costs of water and sewer work. Two alternate options could be to create a “waterless bathroom,” or a bathroom that is only open 9 months out of the year, and would be closed during the freezing-cold winter months.
Finally, the fourth priority the group identified were improvements related to accessibility and open space. The group proposed building a path along the west side of the tree line to allow increased access to the southeast baseball diamond from Fairway Drive, as well as a limited, five-degree slope from the Hook Road side to allow access by people in wheelchairs. They also proposed a “natural playscape” in added open spaces for children to play outdoors.
Following the presentation, the Board voted unanimously to direct RA staff to include the $50,000 in funding in the 2019 capital projects budget for the necessary architectural, engineering and design work to move forward with the Hook Road Master Plan. The funding will reportedly pay for work to acquire estimates for the design and construction of the features in the plan.
Photo via YouTube/Reston Association
The proposed increase, which is currently under consideration, is driven by nearly $229,000 in new expenses, such as a $60,000 reserve study required by state law every five years and nearly $56,000 in health care cost increases for staff.
At a meeting in late September, the board took particular interest in $20,000 allocated for targeted marketing in an effort to reach individuals outside of RA’s membership and boost rentals of facilities. Mike Leone, RA’s director communications and community engagement, said would allow staff to expand their reach and market RA’s rental facilities, including the Lake House.
In previous years, staff used free marketing tools to reach members and non-members. Board members said they wanted to see more information on how targeted marketing was linked to revenue increases and return on investment.
“This board will need to see more granularized targets,” said RA board president Andy Sigle.
RA’s Acting CEO Larry Butler said he directed department heads to examine how to cut costs across different entities within RA.
“They’re very, very small compromises,” Butler said.
New proposed items in this year’s budget include the following:
- Reserve study: $60,000 of a study required by law every five years
- Healthcare cost increase: $55,500 for a projected 6.5 percent increase in current healthcare funds
- POAA software: $43,000 to eliminate proprietary software
- Dechlorination systems for pools: $20,000 to fulfill a new Fairfax County requirement to address stormwater concerns
- Billings and collections software: $30,000 to replace an antiquated proprietary system; will utilize a $75,000 in carry-forward funds from this year
Photo via YouTube/Reston Association
In a preliminary dive into next year’s budget on Monday, Reston Association’s Board of Directors and members of its fiscal committee explored ways to navigate a possible increase in assessments next year.
The increase may be necessary to offset additional expenses and new capital projects, according to RA officials. A major driver of expenses is a $50,000 increase in health insurance premiums for staff and $215,000 to pay for unanticipated lease payments for the lease of RA’s headquarters. Although staff hiring savings of $90,000 are expected to offset some expenses, the association has also seen an increase in lawsuits, amounting to roughly $30,000. Revenues from the Lake House and tennis courts are also down, said Larry Butler, RA’s Acting CEO.
Other expenses include a $60,000 state-mandated reserve study, $40,000 in software updates, $44,000 to add dechlorination systems for pools, $30,000 for a new billing and collections software and $20,000 for targeted marketing. The dredged of Lake Audubon, which was pushed from this year to next year, is expected to cost $850,000. Projected cost estimates for improvements to Hook Road are also expected to be a major expense next year.
Butler pitched several budgeting strategies for next year’s budget. On the top of the list is a proposed 2.5 percent in membership dues or annual RA assessments. Other alternatives include cutting expenses by 2.5 percent, dipping into investment earnings for $35,000, and the use of RA’s operating reserves.
RA Board President Andy Sigle suggested that staff continue to explore ways to balance the budget with RA’s operating reserve, which was also used to pay the Lake House loan. A stronger understanding of the projected year-end balance for the operating fund was necessary to determine whether or not to increase assessments, Sigle said.
Board member Julie Bitzer also stressed the need to ensure budgeted amounts are conservative and realistic, citing that RA budgeting for a decrease in lease payments for its headquarters location, only to later discover a decrease was not expected.
RA staff and the board will take a second dive into the budget by presenting draft two of the budget in late September. Following a series of listening sessions with members, the fiscal committee will receive the budget in late October. The budget is approved at a November meeting by the board following additional member input opportunities and amendments.
Photo via Reston Association
This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.
Newspaper headlines last week declared “State posts surplus of more than $500 million.” Such headlines about a “surplus” in Virginia’s budget appear with some regularity. I checked the meaning of “surplus” the old-fashioned way–in Webster’s Dictionary: “an amount or quantity in excess of what is needed.”
Hardly is the term surplus applicable to Virginia’s current situation. More accurately the excess cash the state had on the day it finalized its books should be termed an unappropriated balance or an amount of revenues received beyond the forecasted amount.
Why is the distinction I am making important? To suggest that the state has a surplus of money over what it needs is to totally discount unmet needs in the state that do not even make their way into budget consideration. It would be nice to have more money than needed allowing all taxpayers to get a refund. It is also important that the state not have to go into debt to meet current obligations.
A full assessment of the cost of government if the state met its clear obligations has never been made to my knowledge. Such an assessment would allow for an honest discussion of whether the state has a temporary receipt of cash beyond what it expected or has a surplus of cash beyond what it needs. I have ranted in this space before about my concern with the misleading way the state handles its budgeting.
I believe one example will make my point that there is no reasonable way the state could be considered to have a surplus when there are such outstanding unmet needs in the areas for which the state has a responsibility–that example is funding for public schools. On the same day that the half-billion dollar “surplus” was announced, The Commonwealth Institute issued a report, “State K-12 Funding in Virginia: Incremental Progress and Opportunities for Long-Term Solutions,” that found that if public schools were funded today at the same level they were in 2009 an additional three-quarter billion dollars would have been provided–all the surplus and about half that amount more.
Instead, school staffing in Virginia has declined by 1,242 positions while enrollment has increased by more than 50,000 students since 2009. A promise by the state to fund fifty-five percent of the cost of public schools with localities picking up the remaining forty-five percent has been flipped with localities having to pick up a much greater amount since the recession. Virginia ranks forty among the fifty states in the state funding it provides for public schools.
This example focuses on the inadequacy of the level of public school funding, but other examples could be given in the areas of mental health services and public health and safety. The conservative approach of forecasting revenue and the tight limitation on spending will keep Virginia with a more than balanced budget. If realistic state responsibilities were factored in, we could have a realistic balanced budget. Instead, we have underfunded programs and services with persons scratching their heads wondering how we could have a surplus with so much more left to do.
Among the highlights of the new budget include an increase in the real estate tax, and increased funding for schools, including teacher salaries.
Homeowners can expect a two-cent increase in the annual real estate tax, from the current $1.13 per $100 of assessed home value to $1.15.
Supervisors said this will result in an average increase of $241 per year for homeowners, and a revenue increase of $49.3 million for the county.
“I believe the additional revenue is an important investment needed to shore up the foundation on which our quality of life in Fairfax County rests,” Chairman Sharon Bulova said in recorded comments on the county website.
The new budget also includes increased funding for Fairfax County schools by $91.49 million, or 4.22 percent over the previous year.
“The package fully funds the school board’s request, bringing teacher salaries into competitive alignment with our sister jurisdictions in the region,” Bulova said. “Again, 52.8 percent of our general fund budget [will be] going to the schools.”
Of the additional $91.49 million, $53 million of that will be dedicated to teacher salary scale increases, according to the county website.
“It is anticipated that the FCPS FY 2019 Advertised Budget will remain fully funded, with increased state revenues,” county documents explain. “This includes projected cost increases related to updated enrollment information.”
Bulova said the increased funding will also allow for a 2.25-percent market rate adjustment for county employees, as well as allow for performance, merit and longevity increases.
The approved budget also provides funding for many early childhood education programs, gang prevention and opioid addiction intervention, as well as an increase in funding for Metro “pending a long-term solution,” she said.
The county’s “Diversion First” program will also receive funding. Diversion First offers alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness or developmental disabilities, who come into contact with the criminal justice system for low level offenses.
Other small tax and fee increases for basic services include:
- Trash/Refuse Collection and Disposal – Annual collection fees will increase by $5, from the current $345 to $350. Annual disposal fees will increase by $2 from the current $64 to $66.
- Sewer Fees – Annual sewer service fees will increase from $6.75 per 1,000 gallons to $7. Annual base service charges will increase from $27.62 per quarter to $30.38.
- Stormwater Services – The district tax rate will increase from $0.0300 to $0.0325 per $100 of assessed value.
One area in which fees will decrease is the Phase I Dulles Rail Transportation Improvement district tax rate, which will go down from 15 cents to 13 cents per $100 of assessed value, thanks to a recommendation by the Phase I District Commission.
The county produced a video on its annual budget is formed and adopted for interested residents.
File Photo: Sharon Bulova
The Herndon Town Council passed a $60.2 million budget for next year, a nearly 18 percent increase over last year.
The budget package, which was approved Tuesday night, holds the line on taxes. The general fund budget increased moderately by 1.7 percent to $35.2 million.
A significant portion of the spending boost is tied to the development of downtown Herndon and vehicle and pedestrian access improvements.
The budget includes $2.7 million for improvements on Van Buren Street and Herndon Parkway, $730,000 for improvements at the intersection of Herndon Parkway and Spring Street and $900,000 for improvements at the intersection of Elden Street and Monroe Street. An additional $500,000 is included for downtown parking and an arts facility.
Local officials are considering adding a second story to the Herndon Community Center to create more space for fitness activities and storage. The project also includes plans to upgrade locker rooms and a reconfigured entrance to address issues with HVAC system in the current lobby.
Funding for a 4,000-square-foot nature center at Runnymede Park is also included in the budget.
The complete budget will be available online by July. 1
Herndon’s Town Manager William Ashton III has proposed a $60.2 million budget for fiscal year 2018 — a nearly 18 percent increase over the previous budget.
The majority of the increase is the result of $6.5 million for the water and sewer fund and $1 million for parking linked to the redevelopment of downtown Herndon.
Modest revenue growth is projected over the next year, Ashton said. The budget reflects a nearly three percent increase in assessed property tax values. The town’s real estate tax rate will remain at $0.2650 per $100 of assessed value.
In the proposal, funding is allocated for the Town of Herndon’s ongoing partnership with Comstock for the redevelopment of downtown. It includes $500,000 this year for an interior build-out of an 18,000-square-foot arts center, $2.9 million to relocate overhead utilities underground and $1.4 million for street improvements along Van Buren Street from Herndon Parkway north to Spring Street.
The overall six-year plan for the capital budget includes $3 million for the construction of a new nature center at Runnymede Park, $3.3 million for vehicle and pedestrian access to the Herndon Metrorail Station, and $4.3 million for a second-story addition to the Herndon Community Center.
A summary of the budget is available online.
Residents of the Hunter Mill District will have a chance tomorrow to weigh in on the fiscal year 2019 budget.
Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill proposed the $4.29 billion general fund budget in February. The proposal would raise the residential property tax rate from $1.13 to $1.155 per $100 of assessed value.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins will hold a town hall on the proposal tomorrow at South Lakes High School from 7-9 p.m.
During the public meeting, Hill will discuss his proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, as well as the county’s financial forecast. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions following county presentations.
Photo via handout
Last week Democrats in the House of Delegates were able largely to sit on the sidelines as Republicans debated among themselves whether Virginia should expand access to medical care through the federal Medicaid program. Arguments that had been used by Democrats to support Medicaid in the past were now being used by Republicans to support their newly found support for expansion.
The news is good since Medicaid expansion could only come about with bipartisan support. When the final vote was taken on the issue, only 31 Republicans voted “nay” and all Democrats voting “aye” with 20 Republicans making the total for passage 69 votes. There was a sense of relief as a goal for which we had been working for more than a half dozen years moved closer to realization.
The news was not so good on the other side of the Capitol. The Senate passed a budget that did not include further Medicaid expansion. While there was an effort to amend the Senate bill to include the expansion of access to health care, it failed along a straight party line vote. Final passage of a budget for the next two years requires that the bills passed in each house be identical. A conference committee made up of House and Senate members must resolve the largest imbalance in the budget that I have ever seen before its final adoption.
If I had predicted before the session where we would be at this point I would have said that the Senate would have passed a version of Medicaid expansion but the Republicans in the House were maintaining their opposition. At least that’s what the public pronouncements and the rumor mill suggested.
How could we have been so wrong? I believe that the predictions on the outcome of the session left out one very important consideration: the results of the 2016 elections. The House’s 66 to 34 Republican control was diminished to a close margin of 51 to 49. For weeks it appeared that Democrats might take control. Among the losses were senior members and committee chairs who were opponents of Medicaid expansion and were expected to win re-election easily. The Speaker who opposed expansion retired.
The voters in 2016 sent a clear message that they supported Medicaid expansion. For most it simply did not make sense to leave more than ten billion federal dollars on the table when there were so many people without access to health care. Many more people went to the polls than usual to send the message to legislators. Whether it was public opinion polling or common sense that showed the Republican majority they were in trouble and needed to change the stance on issues, the public speaking through the ballot box brought about this very important change for Virginia.
How to explain the Senate vote? Senators with four-year terms have not been before the voters since 2014. They have not had a recent message from the electorate and could be in for a big surprise if they do not re-evaluate their positions. The real heroes in all this are the Indivisibles and other groups that mobilized voters in 2016 to elect responsive candidates. These new members are bringing balance to public policy as well as to the budget.
According to a press release, this year is the first time the assessment has been reduced from the previous year. The assessment rate is calculated based on the bottom line of the capital and operating budget.
The board reinstated most pool hours to 2016 levels, according to the release. The body also directed TA staff to increase non-assessment revenue, which includes proffer and easement income, by 10 percent while cutting operating costs by 5 percent.
The release also noted several “cost-cutting” measures allowed the board to decrease the fee including:
- Increasing health insurance co-payments for all employees
- Approving in-house counsel in order to reduce reliance on outside legal services
- Pay off the loan for The Lake House, which RA purchased two years ago
- The addition of 429 new residential units that will be a source of additional revenue
The approved capital budget, which allocates $3.5 million for this year and $2.2 million for next year, includes roughly $399,000 for tennis court improvements and $465,000 for boat dock improvements, especially for replacing a dock at lake Anne.
The annual assessment is due by Jan 1. For more information on the budget, visit RA’s website.
Expenses for work on the RA pool facilities included in the proposed 2018-2019 Capital Projects List total: $362,378 for swimming pools and $287,639 pool buildings in 2018; and $972,209 for swimming pools and $158,256 for pool buildings in 2019.
All 15 RA pool facilities have projects listed in the proposed list. By far the most expensive is work on the Lake Thoreau pool, totaling just over $1 million.
The $1.8 million in proposed work on all pool facilities equates to 26.6 percent of the $6.7 million funding allotted for the Capital Projects List. The proposed budget also allots a total of $2.9 million for the Repair and Replacement Reserve (RRR) Fund, out of the $14.3 million in total overall expenses.
Some other big ticket items on the project list include:
- $2,321,359 for lakes, ponds and dams
- $465,000 for boat docks at Lake Anne and Lake Thoreau
- $406,658 for tennis courts
- $379,318 for asphalt trails
- $313,658 for vehicles and equipment
The next opportunity for Restonians to provide feedback to RA directors about the biennial budget is this Sunday. The RA is hosting a “community drop-in” at the Lake House (11450 Baron Cameron Ave.) from 10-11:30 a.m.
The RA Board has been discussing the budget since this summer in order to reach agreement before a November deadline. Sridhar Ganesan, RA Board at-large director and treasurer, questioned the various costs of the swimming pool facility repairs during some of those discussions, including at a special budget session last month (video).
“Plumbing in one facility isn’t going to be the same costs as the other, just because of the differences in configuration and size,” Garrett Skinner, RA director of capital improvement planning and projects, said in response. “All of those numbers were also vetted through contractors. Especially the pool buildings and swimming pool members. We had contractors come out and go physically through each one of the sites, look at what we have scheduled that needs to be done and determine costs based on that.”
Skinner, who was hired in January, also emphasized that some of the repairs were not anticipated in the association’s capital reserve study the was last performed in 2015. The study tracks needed maintenance and upgrades for RA-owned facilities. Instead, the repairs on the swimming pool facilities were proposed to be done during the next two years because the systems had broken down in some way.
“We’re doing it because it wasn’t in the reserve study for example; you’re doing it because something broke down?” Ganesan asked.
“Not all of these things were appropriately identified in the reserve study, but we still have to maintain them and repair them,” he said.
The first public hearing on the proposed budget will be Oct. 26 during a regular board meeting. A second hearing is scheduled Oct. 30 during a special meeting of the board. The board will vote on the budget and the annual member assessment rate Nov. 16 during a regular board meeting.
During a special Monday afternoon session (video), the Reston Association Board of Directors voted to guide staff toward using operating reserves to pay off the remaining $2.4 million on the Lake House loan as the 2018 budget is compiled.
Sridhar Ganesan, treasurer and At-Large member, shared information with directors about what he says is a “low-risk” option that would benefit members. CEO Cate Fulkerson said staff “strongly desires” the loan be paid off this year using the reserves.
“These are things we should consider as a Board, but my own perspective is [that] if we cannot put the money to work in other areas, [then] this is like returning money back to the shareholders,” Ganesan said.
Ganesan said RA’s operating reserves have never fallen below $4 million, and that they peak at around $12 million each year as assessments are collected. Given this information, he said, there is little concern associated with funds being taken from the account and used to pay off the loan now.
Ganesan had earlier shared this information with members during a community budget workshop last week. Taking care of the loan would reduce the assessment rate by $8.66 in 2018.
Director Julie Bitzer (South Lakes District) asked whether Ganesan and staff had considered making the payoff in multiple stages instead of all at once, if the Board is “nervous” about taking so much from reserves. Ganesan said he believes there is no reason to be uncomfortable about taking the money from reserves in one lump sum.
“You have enough cashflow coming in [from assessments] in order to meet the expenses in case there is [any] problem,” he said. “[Even if] on March 1, only 50 percent of members have paid their assessments — that’s a real problem, that’s a crisis. But even then, we have collected 50 percent of assessments; that’s $7.5 million.”
As the Reston Association Board of Directors continues to work on the 2018-19 budget, RA members are encouraged to participate in a budget-development community meeting next week hosted by RA’s treasurer.
Sridhar Ganesan, treasurer and RA Board at-large director, will facilitate the meeting Thursday, Sept. 14 from 7-9 p.m. at Reston Association headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive). According to information provided by Reston Association, members “are invited to share their thoughts and comments on issues related to next year’s budget.”
Two more budget work sessions, open to the public, are slated for Monday, Sept. 18, from noon-5 p.m. and from 7:30-10 p.m. Members will also have an opportunity to discuss the budget with the Board of Directors at the Oct. 15 Lake House open house.
The final draft of the 2018-19 budget is to be presented at the Board’s Sept. 28 meeting. There will then be a pair of public hearings on the budget in late October, as well as a community input opportunity at the Oct. 15 Lake House open house event. Approval of the operating and capital budgets, and the 2018 assessment rate, is scheduled to take place at the Board’s November meeting.
The figure was discussed during a budget workshop session with the RA Board of Directors on Monday (video/PowerPoint presentation). That number would be a decrease of $42 (5.83 percent) from the 2017 assessment level of $720, which was reduced to $692 using surplus cash.
One of the major factors that influenced the budget development, allowing for the decrease in the proposed rate, is the additional assessment revenue that will be provided by 429 new units at the Sunrise Square and VY developments.
That assessment rate will likely change, though, before the Board finalizes the 2018 operations budget, projected at $14.3 million. The Board has been asked to consider numerous staff and member suggestions which could affect the budget.
One big way it could change depends upon whether the Board decides to pay off the loan on the Lake House. If it does so — at a cost of $182,797 — there will be a reduction of $8.66 in the 2018 assessment rate as a result of no longer making payments.
“Essentially, we’ll be using up our cash to pay off the loan,” Sridhar. “In the corporate world, you give it back to the shareholders, which in this case is the members.”
The 2018 budget currently on the table has the Lake House being maintained on the status quo, through programming and rentals while making payments on the loan. That would result in a net loss of more than $190,000, according to the projection. Other options on the table include continuing status quo for six months and then moving to only rentals, or to use the facility for rentals only. With those latter options, along with paying off the loan, the Lake House is projected to represent a net profit in the 2018 budget.
CEO Cate Fulkerson said staff “highly recommends” the Board pay off the loan at the end of this year.
“I am looking forward to that conversation, because I think that there is a lot of area where the Board can make a positive impact on the community, both financially and through programming,” said Sherri Hebert, Board president.
In addition to bringing in in-house legal support, the cost of which Fulkerson said would be canceled out by the savings from reducing outside legal services, the Board is also being asked to consider other staffing additions.
Anna Varone, director of covenants administration, asked the Board to consider adding a post-DRB project approval inspector. This position is estimated to add $55,885 (salary and benefits) to the budget, with a $2.65 impact on the assessment.
“We’ve been challenged by having projects that have been approved by the DRB and not having someone that’s been able to go and inspect after the member has installed the project,” Varone said. “We’ve not had the resources to go out and ensure that the member has installed the project correctly.”
Mike McNamara, deputy director of maintenance, said the Board should consider adding two seasonal workers to address litter control. This would cost about $40,000 (salary and supplies), with an impact of $1.93 on the assessment.
At a meeting last week, the Board was presented a potential $2.82 million Capital Projects budget.
A community meeting on the budget development process is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14. The Board will then hold further budget work sessions, along with a joint meeting with Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, on Monday, Sept. 18.
The final drafts of the capital projects and operations budgets are to be presented Sept. 28, with public hearings in October and the approval in November.