Reston Association Budget Workshop Set for August 21

Reston Association’s Board of Directors and its fiscal committee will meet later this month to discuss the first draft of the 2020-2021 budget.

The meeting, which is open to the public, is set for August 21 at RA headquarters (12000 Sunrise Valley Drive) at 6:30 p.m.

The budget process kicked off on May 23 when the board adopted the budget development calendar.

Later this month, RA’s staff will incorporate changes made to the budget from the meeting to form the second draft of the budget.

A public hearing on the second draft is set for September 26. The budget will be formally approved on November 21.

Photo via Reston Association/YouTube

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Reston Community Center to Hold Annual Public Hearing on Programs and Budget Next Week

Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors is holding its annual public hearing on programs and budget next week.

The meeting is set for Monday, June 17 at 6:30 p.m. at RCC Hunters Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road).

During the meeting, the public will get a glimpse of RCC’s plans for the future and highlights and challenges over the past year.

Attendees will also receive the center’s annual report and strategic plan for 2016-2021.

A nine-month renovation of the Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center is underway. The 40-year-old center will get two pools — a 25-year lap pool with zero-depth entry and a warm-water therapeutic pool — along with a new roof.

The renovated facility is set to reopen in October.

RSVPs are requested by emailing [email protected] by Friday, June 15. Attendees should include their full name and address.

RCC is governed by a nine-member board appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Selections are based on the preferences of residents and businesses in Small District 5, which the center serves.

File photo

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Merkel: Meals Tax Increase Not An ‘Easy Decision’

The Town of Herndon’s 1.25 percent increase in its meal tax has generated some backlash from local residents — prompting Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel to clarify why the tax was increased from 2.5 to 3.75 percent last week.

In a statement on Saturday (April 27), Merkel said the increase was necessary to cover an unexpected $1 million shortfall in revenue from business professional occupancy license taxes. The estimated price tag for several capital projects also spiked, she said.

The increase could bring around $900,000 in revenue to cover funding for road projects, hiring an assistant town attorney, parks and recreation events, and connecting crosswalks that are unsafe and not ADA-compliant, Merkel said.

“I know raising taxes isn’t popular and it is not a vote that I took lightly,” she said. “If you go back and look at all the discussions, staff reports and PowerPoints, you will that it was not a flippant decision.”

Merkel said her nine years of experience on the council demonstrates that raising taxes is not a go-to approach. Ultimately, the move could generate cost savings, Merkel said. The town currently outsources legal work that the town attorney cannot take on at a high rate, she said.

“With Metro and the growth we are facing in the area the town is dealing with many more complicated legal issues than in decades past when we were a much sleepier little town,” she said.

Merkel’s entire statement is below:

Tuesday night the Council voted to pass our FY2020 budget. For the first time in many years the council raised the meals tax by 1.25%. I understand that many do not favor this decision and I want you to know that I certainly did not make the decision lightly. I think my record on council for the past nine years demonstrates that I am not someone who looks immediately to raising taxes whenever there’s a tough budget before us, so I hope you’ll read along to see my reasoning for my vote supporting this increase.

The additional revenue generated will be funding road projects for the most part. The town suffered a very unexpected $1million shortfall in BPOL (Business Professional Occupancy License taxes) revenue this budget cycle, and several road projects that have been in the CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) for years have had a significant increase in their estimated costs. After a lot of grappling our Town Manager suggested a 1 cent meals tax increase to offset the difference (1 cent meals tax is approximately $900k of revenue.) BPOL is paid mostly by people who do not reside in the town (it is business professional occupancy license fees and is based on gross receipts of the business, the larger the business, the larger the fee. Most of our Herndon businesses are 10 employees or fewer, so you can surmise that a very large company is the reason behind this loss of BPOL revenue) Meals tax is also paid mostly by people who do not live in the town, but use our roads, police, etc. Herndon is an employment center where more than 17,000 people come to work every day, and the biggest portion of our meals tax comes from the M-F lunch crowd.

It was NOT an easy decision for me. The additional .25 that was added was a result of trying to cover some unfunded priorities that were important to the town – some parks and rec events related to the farmers market and family fun days and connecting some sidewalks and completing crosswalks that are currently unsafe and some that are not ADA compliant.

It will also allow us to hire an assistant town attorney which will ultimately save the town money because now we are outsourcing some legal work that the Town Attorney cannot take on, and that is at a MUCH higher hourly rate. With Metro and the growth we are facing in the area the town is dealing with many more complicated legal issues than in decades past when we were a much sleepier little town.

I know raising taxes isn’t popular and it is not a vote that I took lightly. If you go back and look at all the discussions, staff reports and PowerPoints you will see that it was not a flippant decision. Honestly, without the $1million dollar BPOL shortfall I would have likely voted against this increase, because it wouldn’t have been necessary. And I do support the projects these monies will fund. Which is ultimately why I decided to support it.

I understand that not everyone is happy with the meals tax increase; that’s just how these things go. I will still be supporting our local Herndon restaurants because this is home, and I love our local restaurant scene. Did you know that restaurants receive a 6% rebate for remitting the meals taxes they collect on our behalf on time? (This is a fairly typical practice in the commonwealth) and the large majority take advantage of this.

Please remember that since 2010 Herndon’s real estate tax RATE has not increased. In fact we decreased it once in 2011. Every single surrounding jurisdiction has raised their RE rate multiple times during that time frame, even as assessments have increased. I am proud of the fact that Herndon has worked to not put our property owners in that situation.

If you’ve read this entire post, Thank you. If you would like additional information on the discussions and reasons behind this difficult decision I’d be happy to hear from you and share more of my perspective. Thanks again for joining me in caring about our hometown. 

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Herndon Town Council Passes FY 2020 Budget

The Herndon Town Council adopted a $53.9 million budget this week for fiscal year 2020, representing a 10.4 percent decrease over last year’s budget.

Although real estate taxes were unchanged this year, the town’s meals tax increased from 2.5 to 3.75 percent — a move that town officials said was necessary to fund capital improvements, the Herndon Police Department’s operations, an assistant town attorney position, and restoration of parks and recreation programs.

Fiscal year 2020’s recurring expenditures increased by 2.2 percent over last year from $35.2 million to $36.3 million. Overall, expenditures increased nearly 3 percent over last year.

Other taxes like the cigarette tax and business professional and occupational license tax remained unchanged. The water service rate increased from $5.87 in FY 2019 to $6.19 per 1,000 gallons of water consumption in FY 2020.

Recycling fees doubled from $16 to $32 per year. Personnel costs also increased by $805,359 over last year, totaling nearly $28.1 million of the overall budget.

Town officials said that this year’s budget continues to prioritize Metro planning, downtown redevelopment, the efficiency of town operations and capital improvements.

“We appreciate everyone who called, emailed, and provided in-person comments throughout the budget deliberation process,” said Mayor Lisa Merkel. “The newly-adopted budget funds the programs and service our citizens have told us are important to them.”

The next fiscal year runs from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2020.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Town of Herndon Unveils Proposed Budget, Schedules Public Hearings

The Town of Herndon revealed its proposed budget today (April 1) along with publicizing two public hearing dates to receive feedback.

Totaling a little more than $53 million, Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget is a 10.9 percent decrease from the adopted FY 2019 budget, according to a press release from the Town of Herndon.

“In a ‘status quo’ economic environment, the proposed FY 2020 Budget funds Town Council priorities, such as the redevelopment of Herndon’s downtown as well as continued planning for the coming of Metrorail,” Ashton said in the press release.  “It also recommends continuation of the services and programs our citizens expect and enjoy.”

The town’s FY 2020 begins on July 1 and runs through June 2020.

Here is a quick overview of the proposed budget:

  • real estate tax, personal property tax rate and cigarette tax remain the same
  • town’s meal plan increases from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent
  • motor vehicle license fee remains at $25 for private passenger and other vehicles weighing less than 4,000 pounds and $32 for ones weighing more than 4,000 pounds
  • sewer service rate increases from $5.78 to $6.19
  • sewer and water availability fees for new, single-family homes and sewer lateral repair and replacement program remain the same
  • water service rate increases from $3.06 to $3.16
  • recycling fee increases from $16 per year to $32 per year

The public hearings are set for April 9 and April 23 — both Tuesdays — and will start at 7 p.m. in the Ingram Council Chambers (765 Lynn Street). In addition to the hearings, locals can submit feedback online.

Residents and businesses in Herndon can expect to receive a guide to the budget mailed to them.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Outgoing RA President Andy Sigle Shares Top Three Accomplishments

At his last meeting as the president of the Reston Association’s Board of Directors, Andy Sigle shared the changes he has seen in the past year and his proudest accomplishments as the association’s leader.

Sigle first joined the board in 2011 and was elected as the president last year.

“When I began the term this past spring, things were in a little bit of a tumult,” Sigle said at last night’s meeting (March 21). “We were without a permanent CEO. The CFO had recently resigned. The board was in a big transition.”

Bringing stability and positivity to the association were his personal goals as the board’s president, he said. “I think we have done that and thank you.”

Sigle shared his top three accomplishments:

  • co-leading the charge against a proposed density increase for the Planned Residential Community (PRC)
  • passing the RA’s budget
  • hiring the new Chief Executive Officer Hank Lynch

The new board is set to select its new president after the elections for five uncontested seats end in early April.

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Town Hall on Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Heading to Herndon

This month marks the beginning of Fairfax County’s fiscal year 2020 budget process. Locals in the Hunter Mill District can attend a town hall in Herndon on the first Saturday of March to get more information on the proposed budget plan.

Projections expect the county’s revenue to grow by 2.9 percent, generating more than $156 million in additional revenue for FY 2020, according to the county.

The town hall is set to take place from 8:30-11 a.m. on March 2 at Frying Pan Farm Park Visitor Center (2709 West Ox Road).

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, County Executive Bryan Hill and Fairfax County Public Schools staff will give the presentations, according to Hudgins’ newsletter.

After coffee and a conversation starting at 8:30 a.m., the elected officials and county staff will be available to answer questions.

The next steps in the budget process include posting the proposed tax rates, followed by public hearings in April held by the county’s Board of Supervisors.

The FY 2020 fiscal year begins on July 1.

Image via Fairfax County

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Town of Herndon Boards Consider New Outback Steakhouse, Walls at Chestnut Grove Cemetery

Updated at 8:55 a.m. — Corrects Outback Steakhouse location.

The Herndon Town Council and two of its boards held work sessions this week, taking up proposals for a new restaurant building, a massive mixed-use development and more.

Possibly soliciting public comment during the development of the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2020 was discussed at a Town Council work session on Tuesday (Feb. 5). The Town Council is set to take up the resolution next week on Feb. 12.

That same work session also held a public hearing on a comprehensive plan amendment for plans to revamp the South Elden area.

The Architectural Review Board on Wednesday (Feb. 6) discussed plans for a new Outback Steakhouse. (There’s one currently at 150 Elden Street.) The plan calls for a new 6,525-square-foot single-story commercial building and 82 parking spaces on an undeveloped site with 1.46 acres across from the Herndon Centre.

The board also continued the conversation about Penzance Properties’ redevelopment project, which would add three buildings in three phases at 555 Herndon Parkway.

The Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board previously provided dozens of suggestions and areas that needed improvement for the project, which is the first of its kind for Herndon. The Planning Commission will continue its consideration of the development plan at its public hearing set for Feb. 25.

Penzance’s redevelopment isn’t the only proposal that has hit some snags lately.

The Heritage Preservation Review Board held a public hearing on Wednesday (Feb. 6) revised plans for Aslin Beer Co.’s planned tasting room and bar at 771 Elden Street, which has recently faced design hurdles.

According to a staff report, the original application for the tasting room had a proposed deck area on the second floor that would inadvertently cover a stormwater management easement. The revised design takes away the deck, yet adds new elements that the staff report says need clarification.

“The Town and the applicant are working collaboratively to resolve this issue and a revision to the previous HPRB approval is being required as a component of this effort,” the report says.

Ira Saul, an attorney representing Aslin Beer Co., sent Community Design Planner Christopher Garcia a letter on Jan. 14 saying that all of the required materials have been submitted for the application to move forward at the Feb. 20 HPRB meeting.

“My understanding with [the Town Attorney] is that we are in a position to proceed with the HPRB application in tandem with the building permit revision, so that construction can begin expeditiously,” Saul wrote.

Later in January, the beer company told Alexandria Living Magazine that it plans to open a production facility and a 3,500-square-foot tasting room in the city’s West End neighborhood.

The board also held a public hearing on a proposal to add new retaining walls around a mausoleum and create new garden seating walls at the Chestnut Grove Cemetery (831 Dranesville Road).

The proposed retaining wall with an iron top rail is meant to minimize erosion, drainage and aesthetic issues, while the garden wall is set to be two feet high and be constructed in three separate segments, according to the staff report.

The Town Council is set for a public session next Tuesday (Feb. 12).

Images via Google Maps and Town of Herndon

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Digital Device Initiative Heading to FCPS High Schools This Fall

A new digital initiative is aiming to start in the county’s public high schools this fall for the 2019-2020 school year.

FCPSOn provides students with access to a device to use for learning, which each student can access at school and may be able to take home, based on the school and grade level. The initiative supports the FCPS Strategic Plan, which includes access to contemporary and effective technology as a component of the “Student Success” goal.

The Fairfax County School Board directed Superintendent Scott Brabrand to incorporate necessary funding for FCPSOn’s expansion to all high schools in his fiscal year 2020 proposed budget, South Lakes High School Principal Kim Retzer wrote in an email to the school’s community.

“It will help ensure they have equitable access to technology and to instructional practices that support their development of Portrait of a Graduate attributes including communication, collaboration and critical thinking,” Retzer wrote. “Employers will expect these skills, along with tech fluency and innovation, from tomorrow’s workforce. FCPSOn helps prepare students to meet those demands.”

The 2020 proposed budget sets aside $4.3 million to implement FCPSOn in high schools.

“The financial model for FCPSOn takes an approach of sustainable funding that includes shared cost between schools and central offices as well as student user fees. Funding and a new staffing formula will support an additional [18.5 positions],” according to the budget.

The budget includes a new technology fee of $50 per student per year for grades nine through 12 beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. Meanwhile, students eligible for reduced meals will pay a reduced fee of $25 per student and students eligible for free meals will no fees. Overall, the fee is expected to generate $2.2 million in revenue.

FCPSOn launched during the 2016-2017 school year to all of the schools in the Chantilly High School pyramid and five high schools that receive funds as part of the Virginia Department of Education e-Learning Backpack Grant. Phase 1 included a total of 15 schools and was funded through a combination of FCPS and the VDOE e-Learning Backpack grant funding.

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Del. Ken Plum: Thank You, Gov. Ralph Northam

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.

By the time you’re reading this Gov. Ralph Northam will have made his annual speech to the House Appropriations and the Senate Finance Committees to advise them of any changes he proposes to the biennial budget of the Commonwealth.

While the complete list of adjustments that he will propose to a budget that was passed nearly a year ago had not been made public when this column was written, we do know from public announcements some of the proposed changes that he is going to make, specifically in funding education. That is why I think he deserves a hearty holiday “Thank You!”

The Governor has proposed an additional $39 million in new money for investments “to ensure safe learning environments for Virginia’s K-12 students.” Of that amount, $36 million will be used as the first installment of a three-year, phased plan to reduce school counselor caseloads to 1:250 from its current 1:425. The additional $3.3 million will go to the Virginia Center for School Campus Safety to train school staff in maintaining safety in schools.

As the Governor explained, “Taking steps to provide additional support to students, raise awareness about suicide, and ensure students, school professionals, public safety personnel and community members are equipped with appropriate training and intervention skills are critical to a holistic school safety strategy.”

To recruit and retain the best teaching talent to the Commonwealth, Governor Northam has announced that he will seek an additional $268.7 million in new money for K-12 education that will among other improvements fund the state share of a 5 percent raise for teachers effective July 1, 2019. That is an increase over the current budget that would have funded a 2 percent raise.

The additional money for public schools includes $70 million for programs for at-risk students targeted to schools with the highest concentration of students eligible for free lunch to provide dropout prevention, after-school programs, and specialized instruction. An additional $80 million will be a one-time deposit to the Literary Fund which is a method by which the state helps poorer school divisions fund school construction.

As explained in a press release from the Governor’s Office, “Altogether, the budget proposals reflect the Governor’s commitment to ensuring that every Virginia student, no matter who they are or where they live, has the same access to a quality education.”

Even with these needed additional funds, the state share of education will continue to trail its pre-2008 economic recession level. With the slow recovery over many years that kept state revenues low, local governments have had to increase their funding to schools at the expense of other local needs. The proposals that the governor is making will help move the state back to a more equal partnership with localities in funding schools and hopefully to a 60 to 40 sharing of costs of state and local funding that had been envisioned for schools.

Gov. Northam deserves a big thank you for giving priority to funding programs for our children and their education. That is about investing in our future!

File photo

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Reston Association Set to Consider Assessment Fee, Budget Tomorrow

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

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Wednesday Morning Notes

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

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Friday Morning Notes

Budget to increase Reston Association’s assessment fee by $11 — After hashing out several drafts of the 2019 operating and capital budgets, next year’s assessment fee is proposed to include an $11 increase, setting the rate of $693. [Reston Today]

A big win for the governor — Roughly 400,000 newly eligible low-income adults in Virginia can start enrolling in Medicaid, scoring a major win for the state’s Democratic governor. [WTOP]

Get your absentee votes in — Tomorrow is the last day for in-person, absentee voting. Ten locations are available for voting. [Fairfax County Government]

Daylight savings and Metro — Time changes are likely to change how you do things this weekend and that applies to Metro service as well. [WTOP]

Photo by David Toms

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How to Address Three Common Financial Mistakes

Provided by Matthew Cash with Baird Wealth Management.

Through my years as a Financial Advisor, I’ve met with dozens of people. Many of whom want to confirm that what they’re doing is correct. Here are some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen…

They haven’t changed their investments in years — This is common with 401(k)’s & Rollover IRA’s. They may have met with an advisor or someone at a bank or discount brokerage firm. And that person helped get them into the right investments (hopefully).

They get a statement every month with the person’s name on it. And other than a few hiccups here and there, the account has shown steady growth. So why should they change?

Imagine you originally started with a portfolio of 60% stocks & 40% bonds. If stocks grew 7% every year & bonds 3%, after five years your portfolio would be comprised of 65% stocks & 35% bonds.

You’ve unintentionally increased your portfolio risk. All while moving closer to retirement.

They do it themselves (there may be some overlap here with the previous example. Especially with 401(k)’s) — Despite having a full-time job, this person wants to handle their investments on their own. And like the previous example, they think it’s been working.

Unfortunately, the average investor underperforms the market by about 2% per year. And if they think they can beat the market, they’re probably wrong. In fact, most professional active managers underperform their respective benchmarks in the long run.

On a $500,000 portfolio, underperforming the market by 2% adds up to about $110,000 over a 10-year period.

They hold too much cash — Holding a lot of cash makes people feel secure. It never loses value. And they may even earn a few dollars on it every month. What’s the problem?

Unless you’re earning 2% interest on your cash, you’re actually losing money due to inflation. And, as mentioned in the previous example, 2% can add up to a lot. Some cash in your portfolio is ok, as long as it’s part of a financial plan.

So, what should you be doing?

Have a formal financial plan. One that answers the following questions:

1. What is the probability that I will achieve my financial goals?

Knowing this is critical. And it should be the first thing an advisor helps you to determine. It is a specific number. And once you know the answer, you can move on to the second question:

2. Can I increase the probability of achieving my financial goals?

Whether it be reallocating to the proper investments, changing the order of what you’re funding, or changing how you’re spending, you can likely increase your probability of success.

This, along with adjusting for any life-changing events, and rebalancing your portfolio when necessary, can lead to success.

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Anchored by Downtown Development, Herndon’s 2019 Budget Boosts Spending

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

File photo

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