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It's Public's Turn Next

RA board, after approving changes for governing documents, plans two hearings.

The Reston Association Board of Directors approved Monday the proposed amendments to the organization’s governing documents, a move proponents said will ensure RA can continue providing services to members well into the future.

The amended documents, which have not been altered in 20 years, will be presented to the public on Monday, March 15 and Monday, April 19. Public input from the two meetings will help RA hammer out any remaining kinks before members vote on the changes in a Nov. 1 referendum.

“We’re making changes to the documents so we can continue to function as we have in the past,” said Suzi Jones, president of the RA board. “It is so important to this organization that we get this passed.”

While most of the proposed changes either modernize or simplify the language in the documents, several issues are already proving contentious. These proposed changes would:

* Change the formula RA uses to calculate increases in annual member dues. If approved, assessment increases would be based on the Employment Cost Index rather than the Consumer Price Index.

* Increase the maximum assessment fee by $66. This adjusted roll-in is intended to account for a $50 recreational facility user fee that was added into member dues in 1991. If approved, this change would raise the assessment cap from $430 to $496.

* Add a new category of RA members who will live in future housing in the industrial corridor, along the Dulles Toll Road. This new category would also permit residents in the Town Center area to join RA, though with limited voting rights.

Changing the governing documents is the only way RA can adjust itself after several unanticipated events of the past 20 years, Jones said.

In addition to the $50 user fee that was added into member dues in 1991, RA has lost an estimated $1 million annually in dues because Town Center residents did not become RA members. The association has lost even more because the index used to calculate increases in dues is not tied to labor costs, RA’s biggest expenditure.

Also, many of Reston’s facilities and recreational areas are aging and will require renovation in the foreseeable future.

RA is projecting the organization will start running into the red before 2010 unless the proposed changes are made, giving RA more financial flexibility to continue providing services, said Ray Leonhard, RA’s deputy chief of staff and chief financial officer.

DESPITE THE DISAGREEMENT over certain proposed changes to the documents, RA board members agree that the amendments have to be easy to understand and sellable to RA’s members.

RA referendums are difficult to pass. In order for the changes to pass in November, two-thirds of a quorum — 40 percent of Reston’s 16,974 home and apartment owners — must vote in favor of the amendments.

If the issue is overly complicated, members will be less likely to vote and RA will be forced to continue operating under the status quo. Such a scenario would almost certainly involve cuts in the services RA provides, likely leading to a decrease in property values. “We’re not going to buy all sorts of fancy things, we’re just going to maintain services,” said RA Director Robert Poppe (at-large).

Most of the discussion Monday night centered on the proposed change to the Employment Cost Index from the Consumer Price Index.

RA Director Doug Bushée (North Point) said he is concerned most people have never heard of the ECI, while many know that the CPI measures the cost of a basket of consumer goods.

Also, Bushée said, the CPI is used to track the cost of living for RA members, while the ECI is intended to better account for RA itself. In other words, it comes down to a question of whom the index is supposed to protect, the organization or its members.

On the other hand, because the ECI better tracks the rising costs of labor it helps guarantee that RA can continue providing existing levels of service to its members, said RA Vice President Mike Corrigan (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks).

“It reflects what it costs to maintain that level of service,” Corrigan said.

ON MONDAY, the public will get its first chance to let the RA board know what it thinks about the proposed changes to the documents.

The meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. at the RA building at Isaac Newton Square, will include a power point presentation on the overall changes and will focus on the major issues being discussed.

Following the presentation, the public will have a chance to speak out on the changes before the board.

It is crucial that RA members attend the public meetings because such widespread support is required for the referendum to pass, board members said.

“We need to keep this association in business and to maintain the services we provide,” said RA Director Barbara Aaron (Hunters Woods/Dogwood).