On Tuesday night (June 8), the Reston Association Board of Directors talked about their program and services ‘wish lists,’ while deferring a detailed discussion about increasing member assessments in 2022.

The board was supposed to suggest an assessment range to CEO Hank Lynch during the work session, according to the meeting’s agenda.

But an agreement was struck to delay that decision after RA Fiscal Committee Chairman David Kerr recommended that the board start working through its budget plans by focusing on priorities, the cost of them, and operating expenses.

Once those are agreed upon, Kerr recommended figuring out what it will cost and, then, moving to how it could impact member assessments.

“Let’s think about what revenue could be and then see how much we can afford to spend,” Kerr said. “I think a better approach [is] what do we need to deliver and what that’s going to cost…and that way you are focused on what we have to spend as opposed to what we can’t spend.”

This led to more process discussion before giving RA board members a chance to pitch their “wish lists” of programs and services they’d like to see funded.

Among the items suggested were: planting of more trees, further investment in maintaining Reston’s lakes, expanded sidewalks, adding more ADA features to facilities, the hiring of a senior environment officer, and year-around indoor tennis courts.

One board member also requested assistance for members who can’t afford to pay member assessment dues.

“There are members who don’t necessarily qualify for [county] assistance, but are definitely struggling,” noted RA board member Sarah Selvaraj-D’​Souza. “We do have assistance programs available, but there’s a gap between those that are eligible and ones that can afford [assessment dues] comfortably.”

Lynch acknowledged that he’s received a number of hardship letters over the last year from members and recommended working with RA’s nonprofit arm Friends of Reston on that.

According to RA by-laws, the association has no authority to assist with membership assessments.

“We cannot remove someone’s obligation who is a member here to pay the membership assessment,” Lynch said. “Do I have authority to give or reduce or do anything to help individuals? The way the bylaws are written, we cannot.”

There was also a brief discussion of an “events barn” that could host arts, music, and food festivals. It would be a good way to increase non-assessment revenue, RA board member John Mooney said.

Member assessments were a hot topic of conversation at the RA Board of Directors meeting last week. A general conclusion was reached that an assessment increase is likely needed due to rising operational expenses as well as the plethora of capital improvement projects that need to be planned for over the next few years.

The assessment currently sits at $718, but additional expenses could mean a 6% increase — or nearly $40 — in 2022.

In a poll earlier this week, Reston Now asked readers if they support an RA assessment increase. 63% of respondents voted for keeping the assessment rate at its current level.

At the end of the meeting, the board deferred any further discussion about member assessments to the next budget work season, possibly in July.

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The Reston Association Board of Directors appeared to come to a general agreement during a recent meeting that member assessments need to be raised in 2022.

The question, of course, is exactly how much.

According to a table presented by RA CEO Hank Lynch, additional operating expenses are set to be added to the 2022 budget to the tune of about $850,000. These expenses include staff pay increases, insurance costs, and additional positions.

By Lynch and RA treasurer Bob Petrine’s estimates, this could mean assessments will need to increase by approximately 6%, or about $40 per member. The assessment currently sits at $718.

However, the exact increase may vary depending on RA’s non-assessment revenue (like facility rentals, camps, and garden plots) and budget cuts.

There’s also a host of capital improvement projects that are ongoing or upcoming. While nothing new is currently expected to be added to the budget, Petrine cautioned the board to consider what could come in the future.

There’s also a potential option of deferring some of these projects, something RA has done before.

Over the course of several budget meetings planned for the coming weeks, the board will discuss exact finances, potential cuts (including the potential “repurposing” of some pools), and what an increase could look like.

The first of these meetings is set for tonight (June 8). The plan for this evening is for the RA Board to provide Lynch with a percentage range for an increase that the RA board would be comfortable with.

Assessment increases are nothing new for RA members. Last year, it went up by $10, or close to 1.4%. In 2019, it went up by 2.2%. Overall, between 2010 and 2018, the assessment went up by a combined 34%.

However, this potential 6% raise would be the highest in a number of years.

Taking the rising costs of personnel and facility maintenance and improvement projects, how would you feel about Reston Association raising assessments again?

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The Reston Association Board of Directors is set to discuss increasing member assessments, potentially by as much as $40, at upcoming work sessions in preparation to draft the 2022 budget.

At a board meeting last Thursday (May 27), CEO Hank Lynch laid out factors, questions, and known expenses that will affect the upcoming budget, which will be discussed and drafted later this summer.

His report led to the conclusion that an assessment increase will likely be needed, along with possible cuts and ways to increase non-assessment revenue. The assessment is currently at $718.

Further discussion about what this increase could look like, including a proposed percentage range that the RA board would be comfortable with, will happen at upcoming work sessions. The first one is set for June 8.

Lynch said that the potential increase isn’t needed to add new items to the budget, but rather, to catch up on projects from the previous year.

“We are not planning, right now, any new programs or services,” said Lynch. “Mainly, we are trying to get things we had in the pipeline last year that we couldn’t do because of COVID up and running this year. We are not looking to do new things for 2022.”

A huge impact on the budget is an increase in operating expenses, particularly staff pay increases, hiring, staff turnover, and RA’s insurance policy.

Lynch authorized a compensation study by the human resources firm Archer Company in 2019. The study concluded that staff pay increases were needed for better retention and recruitment.

Adopting the study’s recommendations would cost an additional $400,000, according to a table that Lynch presented at last week’s meeting. There are also four new positions that have been requested to be filled, which would cost $430,000.

Overall, adding in the statewide minimum wage increase as well as rising costs for staff benefits, Lynch projects that RA can anticipate approximately $705,000 in new staffing expenses for 2022, even with some savings from higher-than-normal staff turnover.

There’s also a potential for an increase in the cost of RA’s insurance policy, bringing the total dollars expected to be added to the operating budget to nearly $850,000.

Without finding cuts or generating more non-assessment revenue, the additional operating expenses would mean a 6% increase, or nearly $40, in annual assessment fees for members, according to Lynch.

That’s four times the increase that was approved last year. Read More

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2020 was the “single greatest year” for capital project execution in Reston Association’s history, outgoing RA president Julie Bitzer declared at the association’s annual members’ meeting on Tuesday (April 13).

However, a number of much-needed capital projects remain, and RA CEO Hank Lynch says the ability to fund them is “primarily my biggest concern” for the next five to 10 years.

Despite delays and shortages related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Reston Association managed to finish 85 of its 121 ongoing capital projects this past year — 70% completion rate.

The projects included Lake Anne dock upgrades and work at a number of Reston pools. RA also started renovating the Hook Road tennis court and making trash rack repairs at Lake Audubon.

There are 13 active projects, and 28 projects will be completed this coming year, according to the map available on RA’s website.

Lynch specifically cited the Hook Road tennis court renovations and the Lake Thoreau Pool project, which is expected to enter the construction phase in the fall, as “taking up a significant amount of capital work.”

$3.8 million was spent on all projects this past year, and $3.6 million is being budgeted for this coming year, Bitzer said.

Back in March 2020, a newly re-established recreational board facilities working group determined that a number of decades-old facilities were still in need of work.

“We have aging amenities…About half of [the swimming pools] are more than 30 years old,” Lynch said. “As we look to the next five to 10 years, five of these pools will require major renovations.”

Lynch noted that these renovations will take multiple years and require multi-million-dollar commitments.

However, RA’s budget for taking on these big projects is lacking, and the association may need to make some hard decisions going forward.

“Our assessments have really not kept pace with our anticipated long-term spending demands that we now found ourselves facing,” Lynch said. “We are really going to have some tough choices to make when it comes to some of these larger price-tag items.”

According to the presentation at the annual meeting, a huge chunk of members’ $708 annual assessment already goes towards maintaining and improving facilities as well as providing recreation services.

58.5% of the annual assessment dues goes towards these three categories. That’s about $414 annually per member.

RA members suggested some other ways to raise revenue, such as re-starting boat and Lake House facility rentals, particularly with weddings and other big events potentially returning this coming year.

But officials made it clear that the biggest potential source of much-needed revenue would be to raise annual assessment rates again. Rates went up each of the past two years, though there was a decrease in 2017.

How to fund capital projects will be one of the top issues that RA’s new board of directors and president Caren Anton will have to address in the coming year.

“Keeping our assets and facilities in top condition remains a top priority for the board,” Bitzer said.

Photo via Youtube/Reston Association

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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

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The Reston Association (RA) still has decisions to make on its 2021 budget, including any potential change to the current $708 member assessment rate.

During a public hearing on Wednesday, a proposed budget by RA CEO Hank Lynch remained consistent with his October proposal by not including an increase from the current $708 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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

File photo

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