Reston Association is taking another look at its finances and budget projections due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a meeting on Thursday, May 21, RA’s Board of Directors will discuss the impact of the pandemic on the budget, revenues, camps, pools, and other items. CEO Hank Lynch is also expected to offer an update on the status of strategic goals recently outlined by the association.
RA expected to see a decline in revenues from The Lake House. The amended 2020 budget also shows expected decreases in allocations for the Walker Nature Center, environmental education, and camp, according to a draft agenda of Thursday’s meeting.
So far, RA has canceled its 2020 summer camps program entirely.
“Based on all uncertainties associated with COVID-19 and feedback we have been receiving from parents of campers, as well as steps taken by other summer camp providers in the Northern Virginia area — Reston Association is canceling its 2020 summer camps program.”
RA pools could see a dramatic decline of 70 percent or more, according to projections in the draft agenda.
“Total pool use will be down significantly… based o near of infection even when use of pools is authorized,” the agenda states.
A $150,000 shortfall is also projected from sponsorship revenues this year.
The association will determine how many pools will open depending on the number of staff that can complete a water rescue test, which cannot be completed online. RA hopes to have enough qualified and certified staff by July 1 to ensure that a minimum of four pools are fully staffed and operational.
It’s also unclear when tennis courts will be open. Depending on when social distancing requirements are relaxed in Northern Virginia, some tennis courts would be open in June. Projected tennis revenue is expected to decrease by 57 percent.
The meeting begins online at 6:30 p.m.
Reston Association says that its internal controls and processes have come a long way since the botched purchase of the Lake House at nearly double its assessed value five years ago.
At a Thursday meeting, RA’s Board of Directors reviewed progress on fifteen recommendations suggested by global advisory firm StoneTurn Group in a $45,000 independent review of the controversial purchase.
Eric Carr, the board’s treasurer and chair of a committee formed to review the purchase, said RA was “not equipped to handle an undertaking and purchase like this.”
“This is why I ran and it was my goal above all other goals to make sure this never happened in the association ever again,” Carr told the board at the meeting. “I think we’re in a good place for that and I think we’ve done largely what the StoneTurn report requested us to do.”
RA purchased the Lake House property from Tetra in 2015. Renovations to transform the property into a community building cost three times more than expected, resulting in requests for independent audits and reviews.
The report found that RA’s governing documents had no defined process to ensure that internal controls and processes were being followed. The group also suggested that RA adopt a policy to improve transparency on items that are discussed in closed sessions without compromising its interests. At the time, RA did not have controls in place to prevent the contracting of an amount in excess of the budget.
Carr said that all but two of the company’s recommendations are either completed or already exist.
One glaring gap — establishing an ethics code — remains. Discussions on establishing the code, which has been underway for nearly two years, are expected to formalize at the board’s meeting in March.
Highlights of steps undertaken in response to recommendations are below:
- General Counsel will continue to review policies as necessary and as directed by the board
- Although staff indicated recommendations to establish “owners of the internal processes” were vague, RA has a resolution governing internal financial controls
- Greater transparency in executive sessions will be pursued so long as it does not contradict POAA rules
- Establishing processes where capital expenditure maximums are calculated and included in the budget
- Clarification of policy to provide guidance if a project exceeds the budget or if the budget estimate is found to be impractical or incorrect
- Preparation of a long-term capital improvement plan that is updated on an annual basis
- Written policies and procedures to evaluate and management capita projects that emphasize key assumptions and estimates
- Ensuring purchase orders and contracts are not issued unless funds are available and allocated within the approved budget
A complete breakdown of StoneTurn’s recommendations and progress made is available online. Board vice president Julie Bitzer requested the progress update.
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr; YouTube
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
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
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
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
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
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]
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Photo by Marjorie Copson
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
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
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
Several Reston Association members spoke in favor of Lake Thoreau pool — what they described as a community asset and a major draw for area neighborhoods — at a budget meeting on Wednesday (August 21).
During the special meeting between RA’s fiscal committee and Board of Directors, residents pushed RA to keep the pool open. The future of the pool has been in question after emails by Board of Director Julie Bitzer circulated in the community. One email states that the pool is slated to be closed next year as the board considered whether or not to renovate the pool or find other uses for the space.
When asked about Bitzer’s emails and the future of the pool, RA’s spokesperson said the organization said speculation the pool was slated to close next year was rumor.
As part of its budget development process, RA’s board and staff are gathering data on pool utilization rates.
“There have been no formal conversations by the RA Board on pool closing for the 2020 season,” said Mike Leone, RA’s director of communications, marketing and member services, in an August 14 statement.
Leone added that RA is conducting a review of all amenities, facilities and programs as part of budget deliberations in order to ensure “RA is offering members the best services and value for their annual assessment.”
At the meeting, RA members said the pool is a significant community resources that they hope will stay. Others said contradictory information about the pool has created confusion in the community.
“I am just living to think that I found out by rumors that the pool is going to close,” said Susanne Joyner, a Cutwater Court resident. “What is the [ulterior] motive to this?”
The board will formally adopt the 2020-2021 budget in November.
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Reston Association’s Board of Directors is seeking suggestions from members on the upcoming 2020-2021 budget.
The development of the budget process kicked off on May 23 with the adoption of the budget calendar.
For the rest of the year, RA’s board, staff and members will draft the upcoming budget, which heads to the board for approval in November.
The budget approval schedule is available online. Tentatively, public hearings are set for Sept. 26 and Oct. 24.
RA runs on a biennial budget divided into two parts: the operating budget and the capital budget. Assessments rates are calculated based on the total spending allocation for both budgets.
The Reston Association’s Board of Directors are set to discuss truncating its biennial budget processes at its meeting tonight (March 21).
Treasurer Eric Carr and Chief Executive Officer Hank Lynch are scheduled to present a proposal that would shift the Reston Association to an annual budget cycle.
Currently, RA’s budget process has an intense first year that calls for community projects, benchmarking programs and more the budget gets developed in the second year.
Carr and Lynch will tell the board that the current process does not provide RA the flexibility to make changes to the budget on an annual basis, according to their presentation.
A new timeline would propose the following:
- June: RA Board has budget conversations for next year’s priorities
- July: Staff presents the first draft of the budget, and RA sends the accepted draft to the Fiscal Committee
- November: Staff presents the final draft of the budget
Ultimately, the proposed change aims to free up more time for other issues by tightening the budget process. The presentation notes, however, that the board will have to be disciplined and fully engaged in order to succeed.
The meeting is set to start at 6:30 p.m. at RA’s headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).
The draft agenda for the meeting is available online.
Reston Association’s Board of Directors approved next year’s budget, which increases the assessment fee by $11, at last night’s meeting. The Thursday meeting focused on finalizing the $17.9 million budget for next year and setting the assessment fee to the new rate of $693 — a bump from last year’s $682 fee.
Larry Butler, RA’s Acting CEO, presented his recommendations for the budget before the board took a deep dive into the budget.
The long-vacant CEO spot — one of several unfilled positions, including CFO and Planner — loomed over the board’s budget deliberations.
RA At-Large Director Ven Iyer, who unsuccessfully attempted to keep next year’s assessment fee the same as last year’s, argued that keeping costs low sets a good example for whoever fills the CEO spot. “What happens if the CEO comes in and says, ‘Actually, the costs need to go up’? What would you do if that happens?” Iyer said. “I think we need to set the tone.”
RA President Andy Sigle said that RA needs a CEO’s “fresh eyes to keep pushing for more efficiencies.”
Quite a bit of confusion around the operating reserves dominated the discussion as well. Ultimately, the association trimmed roughly $280,000 from initial expense estimates from the first draft of the budget, which allowed the association to limit the assessment increase to 1.6 percent.
“Our job is not, not to spend money,” said John Mooney, secretary of the RA, said at the meeting. “We can’t do everything everyone wants… The question is not expense, it’s value.”
In an effort to pass expenses shouldered by RA, the board also green-lighted a measure to start passing on credit card fees for purchases made through WebTrac to members beginning Jan. 1. Members who purchase pool and tennis passes or activity registrations through the website will be charged the credit card service fees.
Assessment-related credit card transaction fees will also be passed on to members starting in 2020. RA also directed the association’s staff to increase employee health insurance contributions.
The RA will mail assessment packets by the end of the first week of December to residents with information about the fees and funding. The payment will be due Jan.1, and a six-month installment plan will be available. Late fees for assessment payments kick in after March 1.
Photo via Reston Association/YouTube