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Reston Association Assessments to Jump $25 in 2012

Looking toward the future, Board of Directors votes on budget, fees.

Like the cost of almost everything these days, the cost of living in Reston is about to go up.

The Reston Association Board of Directors on Thursday voted to set annual assessments at $565 per residence in 2012, a jump of almost 5 percent from dues of $540 this year. In total, assessments have risen more than 26 percent since 2007.

The board also approved the budget for 2012 and 2013:

2012 2013 Revenues $14,395,026 $14,951,146 Operating Expenses $12,710,362 $13,193,395 Capital Expenditures $1,663,650 $1,623,250

To see a preliminary itemized (some numbers are subject to change) budget, click the PDF attached to this story.

Even with assessments at $565, RA is projecting a $249,554 deficit in the operating fund for 2012.

The vote came after months of budget talks and sometimes impassioned arguments by board of directors members Thursday.

At-large director Andy Sigle argued at the meeting for a $555 assessment.

The RA fiscal committee recommends $2.5 million in the reserve and replacement fund for this budget cycle, Sigle says. With $3.6 million currently in the in the R&R fund, this gives an approximate $1 million overage, though nearly half of that is already allocated for future projects such as baseball field improvements.

Sigle's suggestion was to use some of the overage to defray an assessment increase. Sigle said that moving $200,000 of it would allow an assessment level of $555 (a 2.8% increase) without negative effect to the projected operating budget deficit, while covering exactly the same improvements and services proposed with the $565 level assessment.

Vice president Paul Thomas was also for keeping assessments on the lower end. He said he believes that the coming influx of new housing  - bringing a greater number of residential assessments as well as potential recreational proffers - will add to the coffers quickly.

"Anything we can do to hold the line on assessments now is good," he said. "One of the things that makes me comfortable with this isMoving forward into later years, I am saying the number of members is going to be increasing."

Others on the board said it was going to be a "pay now or pay later" situation.

Tall Oaks/Lake Anne Director Ken Knueven gave the board a sobering look at what will happen if assessments were to create a shortage. He pointed out the number of improvement projects that need to be done.

"As painful as it is, knowing we would be raising assessments, but if you knew where the money was going and was going back into infrastructure, that it was going back to thing the way we use to enjoy Reston, I suspect you would say 'if we have to do it we have to do it,' " he said.

"If we don't, things are going to look abysmal," he added. "Your homeowner values are going to go down."

Hunters Woods/Dogwood Director Cheryl Beamer agreed. The capital expenditures are budgeted for $1,663,650 in 2012, and the assessments need to pay for a lot of improvements.

"If the money is not there, we may get into a situation where a pool has to go without a jacuzzi if it is not in the budget," she said. "That is not how Reston is run. Since I have been on the board, there has not been a vision of anything new in Reston. We are barely taking care of what we have now. Ten dollars now could save us from raising fees $40 a couple of years from now - or closing a pool because we couldn't possibly raise fees enough to cover the cost."

Speaking of new facilities,- is not on the 2012 budget meaning the issue is likely postponed for now.

RA CEO Milton Matthews said the board could decide to move forward with the referendum, but it would not be until at least mid-2012. That would mean a referendum might not take place until 2013 and a community vote sometime after that.

Matthews also says the jumps in assessments reflect the rising cost of many things, among them: An aging infrastructure and a bump in the rent for the new facility RA moved into in 2010. As part of the lease structure, RA's rent in the new place is going up $200,000 in 2012.

RA ASSESSMENTS SINCE 2000

Year    Amount    % +/-   
2000    $370.00       
2001    $375.00    1.35%   
2002    $387.00    3.20%   
2003    $399.00    3.10%   
2004    $415.00    4.01%   
2005    $425.00    2.41%   
2006    $437.00    2.82%   
2007    $437.00    0.00%   
2008    $475.00    8.70%   
2009    $491.00    3.37%   
2010    $515.00    4.89%   
2011    $540.00    4.85%  

2012    $565.00    4.50%

(Source: Reston Association)

(Editor's Note: This story was edited to reflect more details on Sigle's proposal)

Karen Goff November 18, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Of course it wouldn't be. But I think her point is, is it worth $10 per household if we they are going to be unable to repair, repaint and otherwise maintain the facilities we have. I don't think they (or most residents) want Reston to become really rundown.
Stealth Ops November 18, 2011 at 01:45 PM
Is Milton being paid $200K next year?
Stealth Ops November 18, 2011 at 01:52 PM
Oh, and what about that lease that was signed? Why not get out of it and get something more affordable? Why not Lake Anne or some other facility that would be less expensive? Cut the salaries of their officers... not even the mayor of Herndon or Vienna make $200,000+ like Milton does. Even the Supervisors, who yes I know they are part time, make $75,000. Crazy indeed.
Jonathan Erickson November 18, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Close the pools they run at a huge loss the jacuzzis too. $10.00 here 10 there, enough is enough! Cut, starting with saliries 15% across the board. Living beyond means is just dumb. The employment base has grown smaller and so must the spendind by the RA
LD November 18, 2011 at 02:24 PM
run down? b/c of a jacuzzi? i can't stop laughing at this...
RareRestonRationalist November 18, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Just looking at the numbers that Patch has listed per year on the Assessment creep, since 2000 Reston has seen a 52.7% increase in fees. That seems like a sizable jump for just keeping pace with maintenance and upkeep. There's obviously some holes in the operation of Reston, (1 million dollars in revenue for pools/tennis vs 2 million dollars in expenditures for example) RA should look inward and make some tough choices before reaching into the pockets of its residents
Frank Sogandares November 18, 2011 at 03:25 PM
no. don't close the pools.
Mike Collins November 18, 2011 at 05:25 PM
Kim - You are correct about the gap in pool/tennis expense vs. revenue AND the need for tough choices. We chose not to raise the assessment to maximum rate for 2012 ($600) and deferred some repairs and improvements to facilities and services as a result. We also decided to take some money from savings to avoid an even higher increase. Virtually all of the increase this year is due to higher legal expense, higher rent, and lower interest income - none of which we can control at this point. (I was not on the board that decided on a new HQ.) Could we have found $500K-$700K to cut to keep assessment at the current level and avoid dipping into savings. Sure. But the board did not feel we could do so without harming the organization or the quality of services and amenities members expect. What would you cut? (About $40 of each assessment goes to subsidize our 15 pools. That's roughly $2.66 per home per pool.) RA will do a formal survey next year that will ask what the community at large thinks about recreation and all the other services RA provides. I hope people will respond because a total of 3 members came to the hours and hours of budget meetings we held this year and literally no one contacted me about budget priorities. Feel free to email or call me directly. Mike Collins Board of Directors Reston Association mike4ra@gmail.com mobile: 571-969-4903
Richard Holmquist November 18, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Mike, having been a homeowner's association board member before (on a far smaller scale), I know it to be the most thankless job there is. The thanklessness only increases as the association gets bigger. Most (me included) prefer complaining about the end-result than actually attending meetings. Thanks for attending the meetings and making those dreadful decisions on our behalf.
El November 18, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Thankless! Paying people100,000 and above is certainly more than thanks!
Karen Goff November 18, 2011 at 05:51 PM
El - RA staffers are paid. The board members like Mike Collins are volunteers. So they go to hours and hours and hours of meetings in addition, in most cases, to their fulltime jobs. In Mike's case, he works commutes to work on Capitol Hill, serves on the RA Board (which sometimes is as many hours as a fulltime job) and is the parent of two small kids. So, yeah, it can be thankless, especially when he has to defend himself on here.
Richard Holmquist November 18, 2011 at 05:54 PM
Good point, if true, but it's not. The directors aren't paid. You got me to look it up, though. Per the bylaws: "Section XI.4. Compensation of Directors and Officers. Except for the CEO and Assistant Secretary, Directors shall not receive any compensation for their services as such, but they may, by resolution of the Board of Directors, be reimbursed for expenses related to such service or to service as an Officer or Director of the Association."
RareRestonRationalist November 18, 2011 at 06:30 PM
Thanks Mike, for the reply and your work. It's a little tough to come to the 'hour and hours' of meetings, they aren't the most publicized things, including on the RA Facebook and Twitter feeds. Instead we get things like how RA is resurfacing a couple of tennis courts. I guess those fall into services that we expect. You'd also think that useful info like that would be in that huge glossy magazine that gets sent out, too. But instead it's just full of fluff pieces of Reston patting itself on the back. Here's an option for the future, de-couple the pool/tennis pass. It will allow RA to get better info on how those services provided are used by the residents.
Mike Collins November 18, 2011 at 06:33 PM
Thanks Karen! I don't feel like I'm defending, though - just educating, which RA needs to do way more of. On the off chance anyone looks it up, there may be some confusion sown by the salary grade table I referenced. It contains a salary range for a "Director" but that means the heads of RA's departments, not the members of the Board of Directors who are paid nothing and pay the same assessment as everyone else. Occasionally, we get a free sandwich for dinner and all the candy you can eat in a 5 hour meeting. Knowing that I am helping to take care of a community that so many people love makes it all worthwhile.
Mike Collins November 18, 2011 at 06:36 PM
Kim - I agree on the communications. We do great on the "community" stuff, but not as well on the "association" side. We are working on that. We are also going to test electronic systems entry to pools and tennis for exactly the reason you mention.
Karen Goff November 18, 2011 at 09:14 PM
Judy - I am not on any side. I am reporting the facts. The fact is that assessments are going up and the facilities are getting costlier to maintain because they are aging. Whether citizens get value for their money is a matter of opinion, and readers are welcome to weigh in here.
Scott November 18, 2011 at 10:12 PM
Does Reston have a reserve study? Seems to me that repairs and maintenance should have been budgeted over the some 10 years that the dues have continued to rise. How in the world does a organization / business get into such a pickle that if they don't raise the dues that services must be cut and or modified? This downed economy has been dragging on granted...but with that being said, you are referring to 20+ years of aging infrastructure and now it is a all out alarm if the board does not raise funds. HUMMM this just does not sit well. In 11 years dues have gone up substantially, but still not keeping pace with costs... Sounds to me someone is spending more than they are making and that some hard choices are long overdue. I know our Cluster raised our dues, but only very slightly. Why? Mgmt negotiated a better garbage contract. We have been living by our reserve study that is updated every two years. The homeowners volunteer to reduce labor costs. So, we are not giving up anything we have but moreover just living within our means...RA could take a lesson on that! Lastly - who in the world agreed to this lease? Good Grief. with the massive amounts of commercial vacancies in Reston (not to mention what they already own) a VERY poor negotiation was executed and we the residents are paying for it now, $10.00, $5.00, $20.00 all sound reasonable until you keep picking the same pocket year after year, after year! Just my 2 cents...not worth much but...
Scott November 18, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Mike - Thank you for what you do - it is appreciated! Just I think folks are struggling and have had to cut back on luxuries for a long time now! Like any business in the current element, you must control costs and if you don't the customer will go elsewhere. Unfortunately, we don't have another company to go to - we are reliant on RA and they too need to be cognizant that homeowners are NOT the endless money source. Again Thank you I know it is thankless and I hate you are taking heat...but folks are getting a belly full of wasteful spending not just RA, but all agencies that are funded by citizens.
uplandsobserver November 19, 2011 at 01:33 PM
I understand that everythin gets more expensive, but I guess I don't understand the math. Wikipedia reports that there are 25,522 households in Reston and 14,809 families. If all 14,809 families paid $565 in yearly dues that would be north of 8 million dollars in revenue - right? I guess my question is - who gets the pass on paying assesments? Anybody? Shouldn't everyone be sharing the burden(cost) of living in beautiful Reston? How many families are actually paying the assessment? Fair is fair. If you are going to use the facilities you should have to pay for them - right? They all require upkeep - right? Thoughts?
MJSouth November 19, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Reston is well managed a very special place. Costs rise and the proposed increase is very reasonable. Nowhere else could we get the services, amenities, and economic opportunities that we enjoy here. When comparing the tax "burden" we have to many other places, we are in an enviable postion.
El November 20, 2011 at 08:23 PM
So let's take a look at the amenities and services. Why do we need all that "stuff"? Sometimes you can't have it all, and sometime you should'nt. And I, too, would like to know as "observer" stated, how many are paying the assessment? How many are delinquent? How many are we who are paying are paying for? Just askin'.
Karen Goff November 20, 2011 at 08:52 PM
I can get that info for you, just not today.
Frank Sogandares November 20, 2011 at 10:59 PM
"all that stuff" is one of the reasons I moved to Reston. While it may not be true for you, I think more than few people feel that way. I'd much rather pay the extra $25/year than see the pools, or paths, or whatever fall into disrepair making them harder to reinvigorate when the economy rebounds. If you don;t want to pay $25 to keep it going now, i doubt you'll want to pay more later. I have friends who live in Herndon and think it's ridiculous to pay Reston assesments (dues, fees, "contributions" for the Clintonian among us, whatever you want to call them) and that it's a rip-off, but they won't hesitate to pay more than this amount for membership so they can swim at one pool, for one season, in Herndon (or wherever they swim). The value all depends on your perspective. I use the pools. I use the parks. I use the sidewalks or "paths". Efforts to drive a wedge between myself and my cash I view with disfavor. In this case, at least I get something for it. Things are getting more expensive, so it makes sense that they also get more expensive. The salaries I find surprising, and I'd certainly welcome some scrutiny of those, but I think the proposals to close pools, abandon tennis courts are shortsighted and unwarranted.
RareRestonRationalist November 21, 2011 at 02:13 AM
The issue though becomes how much is too much when taken together. As I stated above, RA's fees have gone up 50% over the timeframe listed (coincidentally the time that I've lived in Reston). Other than gas, I don't have another bill or expenditure that comes close to that growth. I also appreciate a lot that Reston has to offer, even the things that I don't partake in but see many others enjoying. But something seems to be amiss if the costs continually rise at this rate.
Mike Collins November 21, 2011 at 04:35 AM
Don't forget about inflation. Using CPI, $370 in 2000 = 486 today. I wasn't here in 2000, but I'm pretty sure RA had to buy some new stuff between now and then. Keep in mind too that developers paid for most of our major amenities (i.e. all the pools and courts and 90% of the paths) and then turned them over to RA to maintain so the repair and replacement costs are on our dime. We have pretty low delinquency rates. There are 21,334 "assessment units" in RA. (That's every house, condo and apartment. Town Center and a couple other neighborhoods you think of as Reston are not actually in RA and we charge them a LOT more for their pool pass.) Last year we sent collection letters to about 1400 people and sued just 643. Not every unit is charged the full rate. Elderly and subsidized units pay $10 less and anyone who qualifies for property tax relief from the county pays about half. Finally, if a unit is worth less than about $100,000 (yes, there are some condos and apartments in that range) that owner pays a .5% of the property value. I can't remember how many units qualify for any of these reduced rates, but I don't think it is more than 1500 for all four categories. Mike Collins Board of Directors Reston Association mike4ra@gmail.com mobile: 571-969-4903
uplandsobserver November 21, 2011 at 11:44 AM
<No question that the work for free volunteers on the RA Boards should get something for their efforts - how about waive the pool pass or tennis fee? I dunno - it's thankless work - everybody complains but few step up and participate.> As far a upkeep on the facilities - there is an additional fee for using the pools and and additional fee for using the tennis courts and an additional fee for using the activities in the Community Center (pay to play) but then -- if you pay the additional fee for pool passes you cannot use all the pools in Reston because some of them do not fall under the RA jurisdiction - (do we still pay for upkeep on those? - I hope not.) Maybe it IS time Fairfax County to take over. Reston has outgrown the scope of what it started out to be financially. I know it all cost money - but my assessment has gone up 68% since I have lived here - ouch!
Karen Goff November 21, 2011 at 12:33 PM
Thanks for the delinquency info, Mike.. I was just about to tackle looking that up this morning.
Karen Goff November 21, 2011 at 01:17 PM
The Community Center is a different organization than RA. It is run by the county and funded by Small Tax District 5. Your RA pool pass entitles you to use 16 pools in Reston. Any other pools in Reston would be privately owned (ie, by a specific condo complex or neighborhood. Those are NOT RA pools and unless you live in that complex, your RA money has nothing to do with those).
Clive Wong December 17, 2011 at 12:24 PM
Mike, it's not about you. It's about the residents. I'm a condo owner. From 2008 to 2012, the assessment has jumped from $437 to $565! That's a 29% jump within the past five years! The increases are too high! My income nor my home value has increased 29% within the past five years. There is essentially no cap as too how much your board can increase the fee. During the past five years, the economy has been poor, and it has personally affected me and probably mother other Reston home owners. STOP WITH ABSURD, FREE REIGN INCREASES. TRY to sympathize with us, who work for a living and pay bills.
Jonathan Erickson December 18, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Assements units need to go. As it is a person who makes 10,000 dollars a year would be paying 5.65% of their income for this fee, at 20 k it's 2.825%, at 30k it's 1.88%. The average income in Reston is about 42k use that as your benchmark and $565 is 1.345% of your income. Now use this percent (1.345) to figure out assessments in increments of 10 k. The single mother, retired veteran making 20 k would pay $269 a year a person makeing 42 k a year would pay 565. A person making 100,000 would pay $1345.00 a year and a person making 1,000,000 would pay $13450.00 a year. Same percentage, just not riding the backs of people who make less money for the benign socialism. No exemptions for churches, police, lawyers, peditricians or anyone else. If you live here you pay. Also it seems very fair that everyone pays, so you can eliminate your favortisim for special groups. Priviliged to live in Reston and enjoy the aminities so payup.

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