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ARHA Proposes '05 Budget

New HUD procedures adjust housing authority operations.

A proposed operating budget totalling nearly $26 million for fiscal year 2005 was presented to the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority Board of Commissioners at their March 7 meeting. This represents a projected increase of approximately $2 million.

However, A. Melvin Miller, chair, ARHA Board, said, "This is a work in progress. We are not asking anyone to approve this document tonight."

ARHA's executive director, William Dearman, in his Executive Summary to the 47-page document, also cautioned the Board, "Due to the partial conversion to 'Project-Based Budgeting' the prior year amounts should not be used to compare expenditure trends. We have included the prior year amounts only for informational purposes."

He also wrote, "This year the allocation method used to record expenditures was updated to reflect the actual costs for each community and program. As you compare prior year expenditures with the proposed budget ... you will notice significant differences ...."

PROJECT-BASED Budgeting was necessitated by recent changes in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant procedures. It now requires that individual projects within local housing authorities be individually accountable.

"This budget is based on the principle of zero-based budgeting," said Derek McDaniel, finance director, ARHA. "We are projecting a $371,843 surplus at this stage."

Through a slide presentation, McDaniel reviewed each ARHA project category for the Board delineating income, expenses and net gain or loss, and the five-year history of each. He also presented them with income and expense percentages by categorical source/area.

ARHA OPERATIONAL expenses such as staff salaries, benefits, travel, office expenses, and other categories were allocated to each project areas on a percentage basis. However, Dearman pointed out in his Executive Summary letter to the Board, "The proposed budget includes the following increases in personnel expenses: an average 5.0 percent salary merit increase; a 2.5 percent cost-of-living allowance; and a 4.0 percent retirement benefit contribution."

As McDaniel noted on each slide pertaining to an individual project "employee benefits are calculated at 25 percent." Dearman said, "The Authority continues to pay 90 percent of employees' health insurance benefits."

Following the presentation, Miller asked the Board to study the proposed budget document and raise questions at the next meeting before adoption. He also said, "We are going to have to make some radical changes on how we do business due to changes at HUD."

Dearman suggested that the Board, at their next meeting, establish a time for a Board Retreat to discuss how to deal with those forecast changes. "I would like to set up an agency plan for the next 10 years," he said.

ON OTHER MATTERS:

• Miller congratulated Commissioner Carter Flemming on being named the recipient of the 2005 Burke Award presented by the Alexandria Chapter of the American Red Cross.

• Flemming asked if there were provisions for an alternative spokesperson for the Alexandria Residents Council when the elected president, a member of the ARHA Board, was absent. Miller pointed out that although the ARC representative sits on the ARHA Board they are not controlled by ARHA. Harold

Naper, an ARHA resident, said, "The trouble with ARC is that it doesn't really have any organization and hardly any meetings."

• Vice Chairman Carlyle "Connie" Ring, Jr., urged that

progress in developing the three off-site locations associated with the overall Samuel Madden Homes [Downtown] project be expedited. "If we lose the tax credits, [due to lack of sufficient progress in their development] we're in deep trouble. This has to have top priority," he said.

• Approved a loan document for a $2.8 million Construction Bridge Loan from Fannie Mae for the Braddock Whiting Reynolds Apartments. "The term of the loan is for 18 months. But, we don't expect to have it longer than this August," said Connie Lenox, ARHA director of development. "We need this loan and there is no where else to get it at this time. We intend to pay it off from the proceeds of Chatham Square income," Miller said.

• Approved the creation of Coordinator for the Family Resource Learning Center which has been undergoing extensive renovations. "This position was previously funded under a now discontinued federal program," Dearman said. It will operate under Title I, according to Dearman. Starting salary for the new position was pegged at $37,900. "This has been a very successful program for both students and parents," Dearman said. Flemming expressed concern about counting on volunteers to help the new coordinator manage the program. "I'm concerned that we have enlarged the center and now we only going to have one mid-range paid person responsible for its overall management," she said. The Center was initiated by ARHA employee Franklyn Malone who now serves in a community safety and family outreach capacity.