Tuesday Morning Notes

Reston Association to Hold Special Meeting Tomorrow — The Brand Consultancy, a brand strategy company, will present its final report to RA’s Board of Directors tomorrow (Wednesday) at a special board meeting at 7 p.m. [Reston Association]

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Accepts Toy Donations — The department is taking part in the annual Toys for Tots Campaign. Donations are accepted through Friday, Dec. 13. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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Reston Association to Discuss Report by Brand Strategy Company

Reston Association’s Board of Directors will meet next week to review findings by a brand strategy company hired by the organization.

The board is set to hold a special meeting on findings by The Brand Consultancy, a DC-based brand strategy company selected by RA to conduct a “multi-phase brand positioning and research project” for the association.

The company is expected to provide a final report of its findings and the meeting.

The meeting takes place on Wednesday, Dec. 4 from 7-8:30 p.m. at RA headquarters.

The company organized an online survey to assess members’ opinions of RA and its services over the summer.

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Reston Association Board Votes to Increase Member Assessments for 2020

Reston Association member assessments will increase by 2.2 percent next year after the organization’s board adopted next year’s budget last night (Thursday).

The board voted to increase the annual assessment fee from $693 to $708 — a major departure from the nearly five percent increase initially proposed in September. The budget includes across-the-board increases in staff compensation and a net increase of five positions, including staff for social media, covenants administration, IT, and business engagement and sales.

Board director Ven Iyer was the only board member to vote against the budget, which he said grants RA’s staff everything on their wishlist and exhibits the board’s failure to exercise due diligence.

Iyer said the board “failed miserably” by making budgetary decisions that will be called into question in the future.

Board director John Mooney pushed back against Iyer’s comments, noting that he and other board members have worked with staff extensively to finalize the budget.

“It is very sad that that amount of work on all our parts is being called into question,” Mooney said.

This year’s budget accounts for expenses like a $418,000 increase in computer support expenses over last, a $77,000 increase in aquatics, and additional expenses for staff training and development, according to RA’s CEO Hank Lynch.

The budget also anticipates more than $200,000 in revenue from communications initiatives, led in part by the new business engagement and sales manager. RA also hopes that enhancing existing activities like pickleball and Lake Anne Plaza will generate $275,000 in non-assessment revenue. The Walker Nature Center is also expected to grow revenue by 25 percent by offering more educational programs.

Photo via YouTube/Reston Association

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Reston Association to Host Final Public Hearing on 2020 Budget

The Reston Association is set to hold a final public hearing for the Reston 2020-2021 budget next week.

The meeting will take place at RA Head Quarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive) beginning at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday (Nov. 21) and will be a chance for community members to share their concerns and grievances with the RA Board of Directors before they vote on the budget.

In 2020, Reston is expected to roughly raise $19 million in revenue with the operating budget, and operating costs are only expected to add up to $16 million, leaving a $3 million surplus, according to RA documents.

“Through these meetings, the board identifies revenues and expenses that should be added or eliminated based on the association’s strategic goals,” according to the RA website.

Photo via Reston Association

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Safety Concerns Prompt Possible Closure of Lake Thoreau Pool in 2020

A recent engineering report has flagged several safety issues with Lake Thoreau pool — including cracks in the pool’s retaining wall —  prompting the Reston Association to once again reconsider the future of the nearly 40-year-old facility.

An Oct. 23 report by engineering firm Terracon found that two sections of the pool’s retaining wall were below minimum safety standards. The firm recommended that RA replace or remediate the pool’s existing timber retaining wall — a move that would likely impact the existing pool deck or shell during demolition and reconstruction efforts.

The report — which echoes similar findings by Dewberry Consultants in 2017 — also notes that the retaining wall has “slightly rotated/creeped down” towards Lake Thoreau. Cracks were also found in the pool shell and concrete deck. Dewberry, which was contracted by RA to complete a preliminary engineering assessment three years ago, recommended that RA replace the retaining wall within one to two years, noting that the pool structure “appears sound enough to restore for additional long-term service.”

At a meeting last week, RA staff suggested reimagine the future of the pool, especially given that the cost of replacing the retaining wall may be too burdensome.

“Do we look at this as the opportunity to do something perhaps more interesting and this is obviously working with the community and so forth,” said Larry Butler, RA’s Chief Operating Officer.

The pool — which staff said does not meet Fairfax County safety guidelines — may be closed for the 2020 season, according to RA.

“Generally speaking, it should not be occupied,” said Chris Schumaker, RA’s senior capital projects operations manager.

In the event the pool is closed next year, RA Board Director Julie Bitzer encouraged the corporation to accommodate members by extending hours at other community pools.

The conversation — which will include community engagement — is in its early stages and no plans have been formally proposed. In recent months, members urged RA’s board to keep the pool– which they described as a community asset and a major attraction for area neighborhoods — open.

Currently, the cost of replacing the retaining wall is unknown.

Photo via vantagehill

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Reston Association Board Scales Back Proposed Assessment Increase by $10

Reston Association’s Board of Directors has shaved $10 off the expected member dues increase for next year. In the latest draft proposal, the assessment would by 3.6 percent from $693 to $718.

This year, RA is considering increasing staff salaries across the board in order to ensure employees receive competitive, market-rate benefits and compensation packages, according to RA leadership.

RA CEO Hank Lynch said his staff “literally went line by line by line” through the organization’s revenues and expenses to reach the new proposed member assessment amount. The previous draft budget proposed a five percent increase.

Lynch said the latest draft proposal represents hovers around a four percent increase in the average annual assessment increases in the last ten budgets.

Member assessments have increased by 34 percent between 2010 and 2018.

A handful of RA members who testified at last night’s public meeting raised concerns about RA’s latest budget draft.

Some said they were worried RA’s financial controls were slipping — once again referencing the organization’s $2.6 million purchase of The Lake House at double its assessed value in 2015.

“There are signs that controls are slipping again,” said John Lovaas, an RA member. Lovaas also said he was troubled by the “shaky assumption” that RA’s staff are due to inadequate compensation.

Critical financial oversight should be conducted by RA’s fiscal committee, others said.

“I’m concerned that the fiscal committee is not being consulted and shown everything,”  said Tammi Petrine.

Mike Leone, RA’s spokesman, told Reston Now that the change in the proposed assessment was the result of direction and input from RA’s board and the committee.

In comments to the board, RA’s fiscal committee raised concerns about the overall budget.

“Having a one-year change in overall spending of about $3.3 million seems very aggressive and may be too hard to manage successfully,” according to documents submitted by the committee.

Here’s more from the committee:

It seems like we are trying to do everything in a very short amount of time. While the operating expense line says we’re growing $1.2M, it is net of reducing Facility Rent and eliminating Credit Card Fees (a total of about $600K). In other words, it does not count an extra $600K that we gained from the Facility Rent and adjustment to credit card fees. Nor does it count the one-time studies done in 2019 (e.g., the Branding Study, and the Compensation Study) that will not be needed in 2020. So the actual annual spending increase proposed is more like $2M. The same situation is on the Capital side. The reserve study calls for 2020 spending to be $2,954K and the budget is asking for $4,453K. Understanding that RA has a continual backlog and that it is being addressed is laudable, however, with no increase in staff on the capital side, and a mammoth increase in their budget, it is difficult to predict whether the full amount requested will be spent in 2020.

RA Board President Cathy Baum said she appreciated members for testifying at the hearing.

“Listening to comments can be challenging for both the board and staff, but it’s really nice to see members be engaged,” Baum said.

Photo via YouTube

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Thursday Morning Notes

Reston Association Budget Hearing and Meeting is Tonight — RA’s Board of Directors will hold a special meeting today (Thursday). A draft of the budget and the meeting’s agenda — which includes information about RA’s conflict of interest policy and increases to member assessments — is available online. [Reston Association]

Author Hena Khan to Joint Girl Power! Book Club — Khan will discuss her new middle-grade novel, More to the Story, at Scrawl Books’ Girl Power! Book Club today at the bookstore. The discussion, which is open to all, starts at 7 p.m. [Scrawl Books]

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Receives Homeland Security Grants — The department has been awarded $406,000 in competitive and noncompetitive grants. The funds will be used to improve the department’s emergency preparedness, security operations, training, and equipment. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]

Photo via Flickr/vantagehill

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Reston Association Looks to Increase All Staff Salaries Amid Staffing and Retention Issues

Reston Association’s 2020-2021 budget, which would increase member assessments by five percent, will likely include across-the-board salaries increases for all staff. The move, which allocates $1 million over the next two years for salary and benefit increases, comes in response to unprecedented turnover last year and ongoing concerns related to staff recruitment and retention.

Last night (Thursday), RA’s Board of Directors also voted to approve reclassifying the positions of four staff members — whose names and salaries were not disclosed — because their positions were misclassified by RA. Board member Ven Iyer — who frequently challenged matters discussed by the board throughout the meeting — was the lone dissenting vote.

The board’s decisions were guided by a compensation study authorized by RA CEO Hank Lynch and conducted by Archer Company, a South-Carolina based firm that offers human resource management.

The study provided the basis for a one-time salary increase of 2.6 percent for all employees to “offset [the] recent below market merit pool,” as well as an increase in retirement match contributions and ensuring salaries are at or above the market rate within five years of service.

In 2020, the draft budget calls for nearly $227,594 in merit increases, $166,547 for a one-time salary increase, $132,277 to elevate salaries to the market midpoint, and $74,832 to match benchmarks by adjusting 401k matches. In 2021, roughly $445,960 in salary and benefits-related increases are also planned.

The board also expressed support for a documented compensation philosophy that aims to attract talent and offer salaries and benefits that are similar to comparable entities.

Board member John Mooney said the proposed compensation philosophy was “very balanced” and ensures RA is competitive with other similar employers, including the staff in municipal or county-level government positions in Fairfax and Arlington counties.

Iyer questioned if the comparison of RA to public entities with significantly larger budgets and resources was appropriate.

He also challenged the labeling of several documents received by the board with disclaimers like “RA board’s eyes only” and “extremely confidential” — a move that he said violates members’ trust because the materials were unrelated to contractual or business matters. RA declined to release the materials referenced by Iyer to Reston Now.

RA’s general counsel, Anthony Champ, said the documents were provided as background information to the board and their confidentiality could be assessed if an RA member requested the materials.

The organization’s fiscal committee was not consulted about the salary and benefits increases, Iyer, who is the board’s committee liaison, also stated.

The majority of the board, however, concurred with the need to increase salaries in accordance with the Archer study’s recommendations.

Board President Cathy Baum said the proposed salary and benefits increases were “logical” — challenging Iyer’s assertion that the board was acting based on emotion, not fact.

Iyer, however, said the Archer study was not prescriptive and instead pitched broad recommendations that were subject to the scrutiny of the board.

As the budget heads for adoption in November, Lynch said he hopes RA’s new outlook on compensation and benefits will provide market-based incentives to recruit and retain top talent.

Photo via YouTube/RA

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Friday Morning Notes

Reston Association to Hold Public Hearing on Budget — RA’s Board of Directors will hold a public hearing on the 2020-2021 biennial budget on Oct. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at RA headquarters. The budget is set to be approved by the board in November. [Reston Association]

Mentoring Program at South Lakes High School Kicks Off — “DIAMONDS (Determined, Intelligent, Ambitious, Motivated, Original, Nifty, Dazzling, Strength) is a mentoring program for young minority women-led by Angel Scott and Lisa Girdy. The program’s mission is to inspire, transform, and educate young ladies on how to be successful in every area of life. DIAMONDS kicked off its second year with many returning students, some new students, volunteers from the community, and dedicated South Lakes staff members who serve as mentors.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Reston-based Company partners with Leading Cloud Security Company — “FireEye, a publicly traded cybersecurity company with an office in Reston, Virginia, is partnering with cloud security company iboss to provide a joint tech solution for cloud-based cyber threat protection.” [Technical.ly]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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Reston Association Board to Discuss Proposed Budget Tonight

Reston Association’s Board of Directors will discuss the 2020-2021 budget at a special meeting tonight (Thursday).

The board is considering a five percent increase in member assessments for next year — amounting to roughly $728 per year.

Agenda materials have not been released yet. In response to questions from Reston Now about staff compensation and the future of RA’s pools, a spokesperson for RA said topics related to staff compensation would be addressed at the meeting.

Agenda materials have not been released yet, but the draft agenda covers the following topics:

  • Staff’s compensation philosophy
  • Findings of a staff compensation report
  • Sponsorship revenue plans and assumption
  • Existing programs and activities
  • Activities that will not happen in 2020
  • Ways to modify RA’s current assessment

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at RA’s headquarters.

Photo via YouTube

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Thursday Morning Notes

Meet the Artist: Peter Fraize — Meet Fraize, a saxophonist and George Washington University professor, today at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage from 2:15-3:30 p.m. Fraize is best known for his freestyle jazz. [Reston Community Center]

Reston Association Board to Discuss Budget Today — RA’s Board of Directors will hold a budget workshop today at 6:30 p.m. at RA headquarters. The 2020-2021 budget includes a five percent assessment increase for members. [Reston Association]

County Fire Station to Host Open Houses — All Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Departments will host an open house this Saturday (Oct. 12) from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Residents can meet firefighters and learn about fire safety. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Reston Association to Study Plans to Repurpose Hunters Woods Ball Field

Reston Association plans to explore ways to repurpose the Hunters Woods Ball Field using funds originally allocated for path lighting near Hunters Woods Village Center.

The field, which is located behind Reston Community Center, is no longer used by the Reston-Herndon Little League due to its distance from the nearest parking lot.

RA’s Board of Directors approved a motion to reallocate funds previously approved for pathway lighting at a meeting last Thursday (Sept. 26) to design, study and implement the project.

In tandem, RA plans to install 16 lights near the village center and the ball field. The roughly $100,000 project uses $81,300 in proffer commitment funds from the developer of Hunters Woods at Trails Edge, a senior living community on Colts Neck Road. The proffer is designated specifically for path lighting and cannot be used for any other purpose.

Larry Butler, RA’s Chief Operating Officer, said staff will work with the community to brainstorm possible ideas for the ball field. The Hunters Woods Neighborhood Coalition — which has long advocated for pathway lighting to improve safety in the area —  requested that RA examine the issue.

“We could do a lot of things there,” Butler said, adding the plan is in its early phases.

In a July 19 letter, the county’s planning staff indicating the ball field is classified as open space, which is designed for scenic or recreational purposes.

Meanwhile, RA is working with Dominion Energy to develop preliminary design plans for the pathway lighting project. The latest plan — which Butler said addresses the “area of most concern” —  is a scaled-back version of a 2014 plan to install 52 lights, which faltered due to limited funding.

The cost of the study is unclear, especially because RA will likely engage with a design architect to determine constraints on the site, including utility polls, Butler said.

The preliminary design calls for 16 LED, shoebox lights likely spread out by about 80 feet. The original plans did not call for LED lights.

Once plans are in place, the project will head to RA’s Design Review Board for a discussion and a vote.

File photo

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Reston Association Mulls Increasing Member Assessments By Five Percent Next Year

Members assessments could increase by five percent in 2020, according to the first budget draft reviewed by the Reston Association Board of Directors Thursday night.

The plan, which will undergo revisions before a final board vote in November, pitches increasing the rate to $728, a $35 increase from the previous year. The current assessment rate is $693, an $11 increase from the 2018 rate.

At the Thursday meeting, RA’s CEO Hank Lynch — who has been working with staff over the last several months to identify new and creative ways to manage RA’s budget — explained the changes to the fee as “an increase of less than 10 cents per day.”

Board Director Ven Iyer called Lynch’s description a “very stealthy way” to represent the assessment increase.

Lynch said the proposed budget includes roughly $390,000 in one-time capital spending, including improvements to the Lake House to increase rental revenue, the installation of a yurt as a new summer camp classroom and meeting space, “major” improvements to RA’s Lake Anne Plaza operations, and six permanent pickleball courts.

The budget would also fund five additional employees for covenants, social media IT to address a members’ request for a community app and other needs, land use, member services, and business engagement and sales to find ways to grow non-assessment revenue.

In a recent news release, Reston Association indicated that the member assessment rate would “avoid the past practice of using the association’s reserve funds to pay down the fee.” That financial practice was used by the board in over the last three years — a move that underwrote assessment rates by roughly $1.7 million in supplements.

Lynch said he hopes to find new resources of non-assessment revenue in the future in order to avoid using surplus cash to pay down fees.

In a statement on RA’s website, Lynch said that practice was unsustainable.

A working session on the budget is planned in October.

Photo via YouTube

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Thursday Morning Notes

Reston Association Board to Discuss Budget — RA’s Board of Directors will discuss the first draft of the upcoming budget at a meeting today (Thursday) at RA headquarters. Issues related to boat and dock policies, as well as path lighting near Hunters Woods Village Center, will also be discussed at the meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. [Reston Association]

Burglary Reported at Forest Edge Elementary School — Police believe some broke into a school trailer and damaged property. The incident happened between Sept. 20 and Sept. 23. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Spots Available on Fairfax County Chaplain Corp. — The Fairfax County Community Chaplain Corps works as part of an emergency disaster team to provide chaplain care to community members impacted by the effects of a disaster or emergency. Register for an orientation session to meet current community chaplains, learn more about what it means to serve as a community chaplain and learn how to apply. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo by Jay Westcott

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With New Funding, Long-Awaited Path Lights Near Hunters Woods Under Consideration

After a proffer from the developer of Hunters Woods at Trails Edge, a long-awaited project to bring path lights near Hunters Woods Village Center is coming closer to reality.

The Reston Association Board of Directors is considering installing 16 poles and lights near the village center and repurposing ball field behind Reston Community Center that is no longer used by the Reston-Herndon Little League.

RA received $81,300 via a proffer from IntegraCare, the developer of the senior living community. Plans to improve lighting in the area have been in the works since as early as 2013, but were hampered by limited funding.

The cost of the project increased over the last several years. Previous cost estimations did not account for expenses related to Dominion Energy’s engineering and equipment costs.

The first stretch of pathway lights is expected to cost around $100,000. At the request of the Hunters Woods Neighborhood Coalition, RA is also considering repurposing the ball field.

RA plans to use the remaining balance of funds to study, design and consider repurposing the ball field. Overall, RA has $124,916 to complete the overall project — after accounting for costs related to completing tree surveys and preliminary design work.

Larry Butler, RA’s Chief Operating Officer, is expected to discuss the issue at a board meeting on Thursday, Sept. 26.

In draft agenda materials, RA staff noted that the installation of the first stretch of path lights does not preclude additional projects in the future.

Photo via Reston Association/handout, File photo

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