Reston Association’s Board of Directors narrowly approved a $10 increase in next year’s assessment Thursday night. Four members of the nine-member board — Ven Iyer, Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza, Bob Petrine, and Mike Collins — voted against the proposal due to financial concerns.
The funding gap between current revenues and future expenses was especially apparent in this year’s budget negotiations as RA debated how to fund the renovation of Lake Thoreau.
RA CEO Hank Lynch originally pitched a budget with no assessment increase in order to account for the impact of COVID-19 on members. But RA’s Board directed Lynch to explore other assessment options up to $728 in order to account for future expenses and reduce the likelihood of a major fee increase in 2022.
Additional revenue from member fees will be used for ADA-additions to Temporary Road and accounts for the lease of RA’s headquarters, which will be reflected as an average booked rate for ten years instead of actual costs for 2021. Other funds above $80,000 would be placed in RA’s operating reserve for future use.
Assessment invoices will be mailed to members next month and are due Jan. 1. RA plans to launch a new system for members to pay fees online and “will be the most convenient way for members to pay their assessment during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a news release.
The budget also does away with processing fees for online payments and accounts for an. 86 percnet increase in funding for lake treatment at Lake Thoreau and other Reston lakes.
RA’s Central Services Facility will also reduce the number of times it mows Virginia Department of Transportation roads in Reston. Currently, VDOT’s contract with RA pays for three mowing cycles on an annual basis.
Other features of the budget include:
- No staff merit pay increases
- Full-time headcount reduced by one position
- Three current and vacant positions will remain vacant until the end of March
- Next year’s communications, marketing and public relations budget is reduced by 9.5 percent
- IT reduces the budget by $195,000 by moving to Cloud and not filling 2020 approved staff positions
- Election budget increases by 14.6 percent to increase voter turnout
In addition to Lake Thoreau, the pools at Shadowood and Tall Oaks will be closed next year for capital improvements.
Image via Reston Assoication/YouTube
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.
If Reston Association maintains an assessment of $708 for 2021, members could see a fee increase of up to $100 in 2022, according to CEO Hank Lynch’s meeting materials.
RA’s Board of Directors will hold a public hearing tonight to discuss the proposed assessment of $708, which was pitched by Lynch. At the board’s request, RA is considering a possible increase of up to $728. Some board members hope a slight increase this year will prevent higher increases in the coming years.
Much of the budget’s assumptions rest on unclear factors. For example, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is unknown.
An assessment of major capital needs is due from RA’s Recreational Facilities Working Group. The assessment will be used to determine RA’s future capital needs and projects’. Impact on the 2022 assessment rate.
Lynch has proposed deferring many expenses to 2022 and beyond. Roughly $1.3 million in capital work has been deferred to future years. No staff merit pay increases as planned as part of the 2021 budget.
The budget hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m. today.
The Reston Association Board of Directors will hold a special meeting on November 4 at 6:30 pm for a Public Budget Hearing.
— Reston Association (@RestonOnline) October 6, 2020
Reston Association CEO Hank Lynch is aiming to keep next year’s member assessment rate unchanged at $708.
But at a Board of Directors’ meeting on Thursday night, some members suggested increasing the rate — as done in previous years — in order to keep up with major expenses and other operational needs. Lynch hopes to keep fees stable in order to account for the impact of COVID-19 on its membership.
No staff merit pay increases are proposed in Lynch’s budget, resulting in savings of roughly $208,500.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do right now,” Lynch said, adding that he discussed the proposal with senior staff, who concurred with his plan.
Board member John Mooney said the “artificially” holding down the rate simply delays more substantial long-term fee increases necessary to keep up with real-time costs.
“It’s artificial. We’re paying with resources from elsewhere,” Mooney said.
Board members Mike Collins also noted that RA’s membership must grow accustomed to fee increases as serious infrastructure challenges come forward due to aging facilities in need of replacement.
To fund the replacement of Lake Thoreau Pool, the board is considering a plan to defer roughly $1.3 million in scheduled 2021 capital expenditures.
“I just don’t see any another way,” Collins said, adding that he “hates” the idea of increasing fees.
The board juggled the possibility of a $20 increase in the coming year, although no number was settled upon.
Mooney suggested that Lynch and his staff consider how a $membership assessment of up to $728 for next year would help meet RA’s costs.
Other budget highlights include:
- Delaying the hire of three vacant positions
- Reducing annual IT expenses by $45,000-$50,000
- Lake maintenance treatments at $31,745
A budget hearing is set for November 4 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. The board plans to indicate that a range of assessments is being considered between $708 and $728.
Photo via Reston Association
Reston Association will consider including more funding in next year’s budget to preserve the environmental health of Lake Thoreau.
At a meeting with members last night (Monday), RA CEO Hank Lynch said the association has a line-item in the fiscal year 2021 budget to better protect the lake’s environmental health.
A major and potentially toxic algae bloom blanketed Lake Thoreau’s surface last month after RA treated the lake with herbicides to manage Hydrilla, an aquatic plant that had taken over parts of the lake. The treatment occurred in late July — late into the season when treatments are typically avoided in order to prevent further blooms and other issues.
Since then, RA has encouraged residents to avoid contact with the water. The dying hydrilla and algae bloom are expected to continue to dissipate in the coming weeks.
Lynch said there is no “simple formula” to solve all of Lake Thoreau’s environmental health challenges. His staff is working with experts — including Aquatic Environment Consultants — to discuss how to manage algae blooms, erosion, stormwater runoff, and other issues in the future.
“We’ve already go ta line item in the budget if we indeed we need to increase funding to make this doesn’t happen next year,” Lynch said.
RA has routinely worked with AEC to protect its lakes. The consultant’s president Bill Kirkpatrick said that RA had hoped introducing grass carp into the lake would fend off the hydrilla.
“The hope was the carp would be able to get a handle on it,” Kirkpatrick said, adding that his company will reevaluate what happened this year, lay out other options, and make a decision for next year.
RA members urged the association to act more swiftly and proactively in the future to prevent further issues at the lake. Others called on RA to improve its communication with residents, particularly those living near and around Lake Thoreau.
“It should be a top priority,” said Lorri Zell, adding that the lake’s health trumps efforts to bring movies on the lake or pontoon boats.
The full meeting is available online. RA plans to step up community engagement efforts to educate members about its lakes and lake management.
Photo by Jeannine Santoro
Several pools suddenly closed over the holiday weekend when Reston Association announced that it did not have enough lifeguards to staff several of the 15 pools the organization manages.
Now, RA is moving aggressively to hire more lifeguards ahead of the weekend in what is becoming an annual and familiar staffing challenge. The problem was exacerbated by several lifeguards who called in sick over the weekend, according to RA.
In the past, RA has changed the staffing structure so that lifeguards are standalone positions. Duties previous performed by lifeguards are separated into other positions like desk attendant and pool operator. Staff are also exploring increasing the pay for lifeguards and changing the pool schedule for peak hours.
“There are many competing opportunities for summer employment in this area to include summer internships, family schedules and vacations, restaurants, other services and with growth in the area other summer jobs are available at a higher salary. Ten years ago, this was not the case, a lifeguarding job was sought out with our roster filled and substitutes waiting for an opportunity for a full time role,” Mike Leone, RA’s director of communications, marketing and member services wrote in s statement to Reston Now.
RA is hiring for 200 full-time lifeguards positions and unlimited substitute positions. So far, 156 people have applied.
Leone also attributed the shortage to an overall reduction in the number of teens between age 16 and 19 who are actively participating in the workforce.
But staffing was not the only reason that pools closed over the weekend.
All pool are currently open, but Lake Thoreau’s pool remains closed after staff found broken glass bottles on the deck and in the pool over the weekend. RA believes vandalism happened sometime between the overnight hours of Friday to Saturday.
The pool will reopen once a scuba diver inspects the facility and clears it for reopening. Divers are expected to begin work early this week, but it’s unclear when the pool will reopen.
Uplands lap pool also closed temporarily after some equipment failed over the weekend. The issue has now been resolved and all areas of the pool are now open.
In a statement, RA’s CEO Hank Lynch apologized for the closures.
“Like many community and recreational associations in our area, RA is trying to meet the challenge of hiring staff for various summertime positions,” he said.
So far, no changes to the weekend pool schedule are proposed. RA plans to update members about the weekend schedule as the week progresses.
A job fair to recruit more lifeguards is set for Thursday (May 30) at 6 p.m. at Newbridge Pool and June 13 at 4 p.m. at Lake Newport Pool.
RA’s recruitment strategy also includes emailing local sports groups, working with local universities, turning to social media, and providing information during community events.