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Votes

Anyone Care about RA Cap?

Fee break for those on fixed incomes recommended.

The majority of the half-dozen or so Reston Association members who attended a public hearing Monday on updating RA’s governing documents said they are supportive of the proposed changes the board endorsed last week.

For the first time since 1984, RA is working to amend its Deed, Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation in order to give the organization more financial flexibility and to modernize the outdated documents. Last week, RA’s Board of Directors gave tentative approval to the proposed changes, opening the way for Monday’s public address.

Most of the proposed amendments replace outdated language, such as changing references to “Reston Home Owners Association” to “Reston Association.” Some of the changes being proposed, however, would affect the community as a whole. Included among these proposed changes are recommendations to:

* Raise the annual assessment cap by $66 to account for a 1991 roll-in of recreational user fees. This would increase the maximum assessment fee to $496 from $430.

* Change the formula RA uses to calculate increases in member dues. Assessment increases would be based on the Employment Cost Index rather than the Consumer Price Index. The new index would be tied to labor costs — RA’s biggest expenditure — rather than to the average cost of a basket of consumer goods.

* Create a new category of RA members, with limited voting rights, who will live in future and existing housing along the Industrial Corridor, near the Dulles Toll Road. The new members would give RA’s coffers a boost from the added annual assessments.

If RA members do not vote in support of the changes, RA will be forced to reduce services, said Gerald Volloy, RA’s executive vice president. Projections show that if the amendments are not approved in the Nov. 1 referendum, the organization's funding needs will exceed the cap’s limitations.

“Our projections show that the cap must be adjusted in order for us to continue taking care of the community,” Volloy said.

RA DIRECTOR Mike Corrigan (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks), speaking as an RA member, proposed an alternative plan to the draft changes the board approved last week. Under Corrigan’s plan, the cap would be raised by $66 for everyone except RA members over the age of 65. Seniors, Corrigan said, are often on a fixed-income and could face difficulties if assessments were heavily increased.

“I think it’s more equitable,” he said.

By making the changes more palatable to senior citizens, Corrigan said, it would increase the proposed amendments’ chances for approval in November. For the referendum to pass, two-thirds of a quorum — 40 percent of Reston's 16,974 home and apartment owners — must agree to the changes.

“It’ll make it a lot easier to pass the referendum, no question about it,” he said.

Joe Leighton, the RA director representing the South Lakes district, agreed with Corrigan that residents on fixed-incomes should be exempted from the cap increase. A $66 increase in the maximum assessment fee will probably be seen as too much, said Leighton, who was also addressing the board as an RA member.

“A significant minority is not going to want to go from $430 to $496,” he said.

Leighton proposed maintaining the Consumer Price Index to calculate increases and suggested increasing the cap incrementally over time, rather than all at once.

SOME MEMBERS who spoke Monday said they were disappointed by a lack of public interest in the process. Approximately seven Reston citizens attended the meeting, six of whom spoke.

“You’re seeing five or six people coming out and we have what 20,000 members?” said Reston resident George Kain. “We need to get people to give positive and constructive input to the (RA) board because this affects the whole community.”

Vera Hannigan, who is running for a RA Board of Directors seat, echoed Kain’s criticism, adding that the public does not have adequate time to digest the dense, legal language of the governing document changes and give input before the board moves on to the next step in the process.

“This critical examination of our governing documents must not be done in a vacuum,” Hannigan said. “There must be citizen input every step of the way, and it is up to RA to make sure that the citizens of this community fully understand the proposed changes to these documents.”

Additional public meetings may be added to give the public more chances to convey their thoughts on the subject, though members are welcome to speak at any RA board meeting if they have a concern, said Suzi Jones, president of the RA board.

“It's been out there a while now,” she said. “We want to hear from people about this.”