Reston Association is adopting a new approach to its collections of member assessments.
RA’s Board of Directors voted to scrap a $2.95 convenience fee that was required for online payments. The organization also launched a new online portal for paying assessments.
In a recent Reston Today video, RA noted that the new portal creates a consolidated way for members to make payments or set up payment plans. The association will no longer accept payments made through the general website or the Webtrac portal.
However, members can also make in-person payments by appointment only. Payment via credit card can also be made by calling RA’s member services department or by dropping off payments in a box outside RA’s headquarters, which are located at 12001 Sunrise Valley Drive.
This year’s assessment will go up by $10. The board decided to approve the increase by a 5-4 vote in late November.
The Reston Association (RA) still has decisions to make on its 2021 budget, including any potential change to the current $708 member assessment rate.
Lynch did stipulate that the assessment is one of the key points the Board of Directors must still decide on. He said that the fiscal committee for RA has recommended an increase to the assessment of up to $20 for the 2021 budget.
Lynch stated that the fiscal committee suggested there is the potential of an increase of up to $100 for the assessment in 2022. But he said he does not believe there will be that significant of an increase for the 2022 assessment rate.
Robert Petrine, treasurer for the board, clarified the discussion on the potential 2022 assessment rate increase of up to $100.
“There are two major components that are not in the current 2021 budget, which if we look forward is number one is if you implement the salary plan, that’s going to have a material impact,” he said.
“And number two; we’re going to be fully paying on the (headquarters) lease. When you put those in and you also factor in the amount of capital projects that are already in the budget and projected for 2022, in order to have everything balanced, you’re looking at a substantially higher assessment.”
Lynch also discussed the decision point for the board of an operational change with the Central Services Facility (CSF) that mows the Reston roadways and median strips.
CSF is paid $45,000 in an annual contract through the Virginia Department of Transportation to mow Reston’s roadways and median strips three times. However, CSF mows those areas 24 times during the year to maintain Reston’s appearance. The additional mowing costs RA an additional $140,000 above the contract.
Beyond the roadways, CSF also brings in a turf maintenance company to mow many of the ball fields, parks and open spaces. This additional maintenance costs the association over $200,000 annually.
Lynch’s proposal for the board’s consideration includes the following measures to reduce CSF’s 2021 operating costs by $200,000 to $210,000:
- Reduce the number of VDOT highway mows from 24 down to eight.
- Eliminate contracted mowing services used for RA’s ball fields, parks and open spaces.
- Utilizing current full-time CSF staff and five seasonal staff to conduct all RA mowing.
During discussions with RA members following Lynch’s presentation and the boards’ comments, a primary focus fell on RA’s communications budget and, in part, the participation of members in RA’s planning.
While Petrine complimented the board’s participation and the members that joined the discussion, he admonished “the general membership for lack of concern and participation.”
Board member Selvaraj-D’Souza stated that this is where Lynch’s “team is failing” in its communication efforts.
The operating expenses for communications for the 2020 budget was $968,114. In Lynch’s proposal, those expenses increased to $979,373 for 2021.
“When we’re spending a million dollars on communications, we need to be proactive and figure out a way to get our membership to show up,” she said.
“And that’s where we need to look at out of the box ideas, how are we reaching out to them, is our messaging actually being effective. And there needs to be some absolute accountability with that.”
Board member Ven Iyer echoed the suggestions of Selvaraj-D’Souza. Iyer suggested efforts be turned toward “grassroots level participation in order to shape the direction where this organization is headed.”
Lynch defended the communications department’s efforts, stating that he believes “there’s a complete misunderstanding of what communications does.”
He added that with roughly 60,000 members, an “enormous amount of work” is required to serve all the needs and wants of the members.
Board member Mike Collins followed the discussion by stating that RA has had difficulty in member participation for at least the 10 years he’s been in Reston. He also did not recommend that members should assume something is wrong with the efforts of the communications department.
However, Collins did discuss his belief that board members take a look at digging more into those details of the budget next year.
Board president Julie Bitzer concluded the discussion by agreeing with the notion that the board needs more information on the communications to reach a more appropriate “comfort level.” She suggested reviewing more details on the communications budget during the board’s next meeting.
The board will next meet virtually on Nov. 19 via Zoom.
Reston Association members now have an additional month to file annual assessment fees. The deadline was extended from March 1 to March 31 due to technical issues with RA’s new online payment system.
Readers told Reston Now that the system did not allow members to complete payments, despite multiple attempts.
RA will waive late fees and interest charges, as well as offer a 20 percent discount for passes to pools, tennis, and pickleball. This year’s assessment is $708.
Due to issues with the online system, members can also drop-in at Reston Assiocation’s headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive) on Saturday, March 7 from 9 a.m. to noon to pay fees. RA’s member services team is also available on weekdays between 8:30 a.m to 5 p.m. to help process dues.
Earlier this year, RA transitioned to a new online feature in its existing WebTrac portal for online payments. The change came after MemberSuite — a website that launched in December — was discontinued due to “configuration challenges that are requiring significant research and additional time to resolve.”
“We recognize that some Reston homeowners have been unable to make their payments electronically, therefore we are waiving the late fee and interest charges for the rest of the month in order to give folks more time to make their transactions,” wrote RA CEO Hank Lynch in a statement. “We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience to our members and will work prudently to ensure that these technical problems do not occur in the future.”
Image via Reston Association
The Reston Association recently decided to institute a new payment method for its annual assessment fees.
Starting later this week, people will be able to pay the 2020 assessment fee using a new and improved portal, according to a Reston Association representative.
The RA decided to abandon the previous portals because they were glitchy and people were not able to log in, the representative said, adding that for the time being, people are not able to pay their bills online.
Instead, they can pay them over the phone by calling 703-435-6530, send a check in the mail or pay in person at the member service desk (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).
RA members have between now and March 1 to pay their assessment fees.
The representative said she wasn’t sure if late fees will temporarily be waived because of the system malfunctions.
People who already paid their fees will not have to resubmit their payment, according to the RA website.
Photo via RA/Facebook
If you were not looking forward to paying the entirety of the Reston Association assessment fee today (March 1) to avoid fees, you’re in luck.
The Reston Association announced on Twitter this afternoon that the assessment deadline was pushed to next Friday (March 8).
The decision is “due to recent inclement weather,” the tweet said. The 2019 annual assessment is $693 — a bump from last year’s $682 fee.
The discount on the pool and tennis passes has also been extended to the new date.
Reston Association’s Board of Directors approved next year’s budget, which increases the assessment fee by $11, at last night’s meeting. The Thursday meeting focused on finalizing the $17.9 million budget for next year and setting the assessment fee to the new rate of $693 — a bump from last year’s $682 fee.
Larry Butler, RA’s Acting CEO, presented his recommendations for the budget before the board took a deep dive into the budget.
The long-vacant CEO spot — one of several unfilled positions, including CFO and Planner — loomed over the board’s budget deliberations.
RA At-Large Director Ven Iyer, who unsuccessfully attempted to keep next year’s assessment fee the same as last year’s, argued that keeping costs low sets a good example for whoever fills the CEO spot. “What happens if the CEO comes in and says, ‘Actually, the costs need to go up’? What would you do if that happens?” Iyer said. “I think we need to set the tone.”
RA President Andy Sigle said that RA needs a CEO’s “fresh eyes to keep pushing for more efficiencies.”
Quite a bit of confusion around the operating reserves dominated the discussion as well. Ultimately, the association trimmed roughly $280,000 from initial expense estimates from the first draft of the budget, which allowed the association to limit the assessment increase to 1.6 percent.
“Our job is not, not to spend money,” said John Mooney, secretary of the RA, said at the meeting. “We can’t do everything everyone wants… The question is not expense, it’s value.”
In an effort to pass expenses shouldered by RA, the board also green-lighted a measure to start passing on credit card fees for purchases made through WebTrac to members beginning Jan. 1. Members who purchase pool and tennis passes or activity registrations through the website will be charged the credit card service fees.
Assessment-related credit card transaction fees will also be passed on to members starting in 2020. RA also directed the association’s staff to increase employee health insurance contributions.
The RA will mail assessment packets by the end of the first week of December to residents with information about the fees and funding. The payment will be due Jan.1, and a six-month installment plan will be available. Late fees for assessment payments kick in after March 1.
Photo via Reston Association/YouTube
Reston Association is set this week to hold a vote and the second public hearing on next year’s budget.
This upcoming meeting will focus on approving the second year of the 2018-2019 budget at the public meeting tomorrow (Thursday) at 6:30 p.m. at RA’s headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive) after the first year of the budget was approved last year.
Larry Butler, RA’s acting CEO, presented his recommendations for the budget at a public hearing last Thursday (Nov. 8). RA board and staff created three drafts of the budget, using 2018 as a baseline.
During the budget process, the RA board directed the association’s staff to increase employee health insurance contributions and to reduce expenses by passing credit card convenience fees along to the cardholder. The association trimmed roughly $300,000 from the initial budget estimates from an earlier draft, according to a Nov. 1 press release.
“This year’s budget was shaped primarily through a wide range of cuts in operating expenses,” the press release said.
If approved, the proposed budget would increase members’ assessment fee by $11, setting the rate at $693. The first draft would have set the annual fee, which helps the association maintain pathways, facilities and recreational areas, at just over $700. Last year’s totaled $682.
The board is also requesting $40,000 from cash reserves to reinstate staff training and $17,545 for staff recruitment and “market rate adjustments for difficult to fill positions,” according to meeting materials to be presented to the board.
After the new assessment is set by the board, RA will mail assessment packets to residents with information about the fees and funding. The payment will be due Jan. 1.
The draft agenda for the meeting is available online.
Photo via Reston Association/Reston Today
Wexton, Democratic incumbents celebrate Election Day victories — Local voters also turned out in numbers the surpassed recent midterm elections. The Fairfax County Office of Elections estimated a 69.7 percent turnout for the general election, up from 45.7 percent in 2014. [Fairfax County Times]
DMV2Go in RTC today — The wireless office on wheels will offer DMV services today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the pavilion. Services include driver’s license and ID card applications and renewals, driving records, decals and more. [Reston Town Center]
Reston Association budget hearing, assessment increase proposal tomorrow — RA will hear comments from members about its plans to increase assessments by $11 at a hearing tomorrow (Thursday). [Reston Association]
Robert Sapolsky to speak at CenterStage tonight — Sapolsky, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, will speak tonight. His lectures touch on topics like stress, baboons, the biology of individuality, memory aggression and schizophrenia. Tickets are sold out but the box office will maintain a waitlist today for any returned tickets. [Reston Community Center]
Photo by John Pinkman
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
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.