At Budget Meeting, Residents Push for Lake Thoreau Pool to Remain Open

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

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Reston Association Board of Directors Prep for Upcoming Budget Season

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.

Members can fill out the suggestion form — which is available online — and email to [email protected]. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, June 18.

File photo

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Reston Association to Consider Changing Budget Process

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.

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New Reston Association Budget Includes $11 Assessment Increase

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

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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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Reston Association to Hold Public Hearing on Assessment Increase, Budget

As deliberations on next year’s budget continue, Reston Association is holding a public hearing to get feedback from members next week.

The hearing is set for Nov. 8 (Thursday) at 6:30 p.m. at RA’s headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive). The draft budget is available online and includes a possible $28 increase in assessments.

RA’s Board of Directors is also contemplating a number of policy directives, including passing on credit card fees for processing members’ and nonmembers’ payments from the organization to individuals. Other issues before the board include expanded health benefits for employees, overall compensation packages and merit-based salary increases.

The first year of the 2018-2019 budget was approved last year. The second year will be approved by the board in mid-November.

Photo via Reston Association/YouTube

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Reston Association Board Mulls Assessment Increase, Employee Benefits

Reston Association members could see their assessments go up by around $28 next year as the Board of Directors continues budget deliberations next month.

The decision to increase assessments is not final and will be determined by a number of factors as the board mulls several policy decisions, including health care benefits for staff, ahead of the Nov. 15 adoption. The increase is driven primarily by a new $60,000 reserve study required by law, $43,000 in new professional administrative software, $20,000 to dechlorinate pools and $250,000 in unanticipated lease payments for RA’s headquarters. 

Healthcare costs are also expected to increase by $65,000 and an average 2.3 percent merit-based increase for full-time and yearly part-time employees for the year is also anticipated. RA’s Acting CEO Larry Butler said the staff is working hard to maintain cost-savings cross all departments and limit the need for assessment increases.

In an effort to reduce expenses shouldered by RA, the board is also considering passing on the cost of credit card convenience fees to members and nonmembers, a roughly $180,000 yearly expense that is currently paid for by RA.

The motion to include the decision in the next draft of the budget passed with a 6-3 vote, pending staff assurances that the system to implement it could go into effect by Jan. 1. Board members Sridhar Ganesan, Sherri Hebert, and Ven Iyer voted against the measure, which they characterized as an equity issue.

“It’s just not fair, without any notice, to put members on this… not everybody has $700 in their bank account to pay for this,” Iyer said, referring to payments of RA assessments.

Others said RA should look into allowing online bank deposits. Currently, physical checks are accepted in lieu of credit card payment.

After some spirited debate, five members of the board voted to begin charging for financial updates requested by lenders, allowing RA to dip into roughly $60,000 in anticipated fees paid to RA for the service. Finance staff would have to provide documents within three days of the request date, per state law.

The board also struggled to grapple with how to handle healthcare premiums contributions, cost sharing for health services, and merit-based bonuses for staff across the board. Overall, the board concurred that RA’s healthcare package was too generous compared to the marketplace and competitors.

Hebert challenged the need for merit-based increases and generous benefits packages, noting that top-level vacancies and other openings in RA are not triggered by a lackluster benefits package.

“We are responsible to the membership first,” Hebert said, adding that attrition of RA’s staff may allow “new blood” and new ideas to enter the organization.

Others pointed to a larger issue about RA’s budget: staff expenses and compensation. Based on Ganesan’s research, salaries for RA’s staff increase by 36 percent between 2010 and 2018, more than half of the increases given to Fairfax County government staff. In that time period, assessments went up by 34 percent.

Ganesan and John Bowman noted that RA’s staff costs stand at a staggered 67 percent of the total budget, channeling the board’s overall consensus that RA’s new CEO will need to spearhead a complete review of staffing, compensation, and benefits.

The first year of the 2018 budget was approved on Nov. 16 last year. RA operates on a biennial budget, which is divided into the operating and capital budget. Assessment rates are calculated based on the bottom line of the two budgets.

Photo via YouTube/Reston Association

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