Budget Juggling

Budget Juggling

Reston Association board agrees to add more staff without raising assessments.

The Reston Association Board of Directors was prepared last Thursday to accept member recommendations to change several staff positions from part-time to full-time, even if it meant about a $4 increase in the annual assessment.

Instead, because of Director Rick Beyer’s suggestion at Thursday night’s budget hearing, they were able to add about $100,000 of staffing without raising assessments. "If [RA] staff could provide a list of least priority budget items, then that would be helpful to consider [on Saturday]," said Beyer.

In the short turnaround from Thursday to Saturday’s public hearing on the biennial budget, RA staff made a series of cuts to accommodate the staffing changes. On Saturday, the board directed staff to integrate the changes into the budget. Since the board was holding a public hearing rather than a formal board meeting, the board couldn’t make the changes official. However, the board feels comfortable with the budget and will vote on it Nov. 17.

DURING THURSDAY’S PUBLIC hearing, the board heard budget suggestions from members in the packed conference room at RA headquarters.

Members requested that the board consider changing four existing part-time positions — the tennis coordinator, the volunteer coordinator and the natural areas field worker — to full-time positions.

A few members also requested that one of the arborist positions be upgraded, which staff pointed out was already in the new budget.

All these budget additions, in addition to $6,400 for a new seasonal member services position, $5,000 for a landscape architect and $10,000 for landscaping at the Central Services Facility, totaled an increase of $124,972 next year.

To make up for the increase, staff made a series of cuts that equaled the additions. The cuts included $46,696 for a full-time member services desk position, which is currently vacant, $10,000 for staff training and $22,000 for increased tennis revenue. Small reductions were made to existing budgets for tree work, ballfield turf repairs, pool furniture and planning and design fees.

"Do I feel comfortable with these deletions to keep the assessment where it is, yes I do," said Milton Matthews, CEO and executive vice president of RA. The board subsequently directed Matthews to incorporate the changes into the budget.

ABOUT A MONTH ago, Reston Association staff released the biennial budget for 2006 and 2007. The suggested annual assessment increase for 2006 was $12, from $425 to $437. There is no proposed increase in the annual assessment for 2007. If the rate stays the same from 2006 to 2007, it would be the first time the assessment has remained flat since 1994.

While there was some discussion Thursday among board members to cut the money allocated for future consulting studies on facility conversions, staff did not make cuts to this budget item. "Is the community going to be able to use the [money] in the next two years?" said Director Robin Smyers, hinting that the parks and recreation committee would probably take two years before making recommendations.

Director Joe Leighton, who sits on the parks and recreation committee, agreed that these studies should be deferred until the next budget cycle for 2008 and 2009. "First we need to see what the recommendations are going to be [before funding more studies]," said Leighton.

Debbie Shprentz, who led the effort to form Save Tall Oaks Pool this past summer, condemned the decision to fund the budget item. "Why is there money in [the budget] when no recommendations have been made?" said Shprentz. "I would categorize it as premature since the committee is still at work." She continues to work with other members of STOP to organize against any future attempt by Reston Association to close the pool.

For the past 15 years, RA has had a biennial budget process, which, according to Ray Leonhard, RA’s chief financial officer, saves staff a lot of time and money. Leonhard pointed out that another planned community, Columbia, Md., recently switched to a two-year budget cycle after hearing a presentation from RA staff.