Every year, the McLean Community Center Governing Board and its finance committee hold a budget meeting that is open to the public –– and every year –– hardly any residents attend.
"It's not only open to the public, but the public is encouraged to attend," said Jan Auerbach, vice chair of the McLean Community Center Governing Board. "It's hard to get people to come out for it unless it's some kind of contentious issue."
This year's public work session for the 2008 budget is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the community center. The McLean Community Center is funded by local residents, special donations, program fees and interest on investments. A 1970 bond referendum created special tax district, Small District 1 Dranesville, and added a real estate tax surcharge for residents of this district. The 11-member McLean Community Center Governing Board oversees the budget.
"When people do show up at these budget meetings it is usually to discuss the extra amount they pay on their real estate assessment and the tax implications of the budget," said Auerbach.
The tax rate is $0.028 per $100 of assessed real estate value and has never gone up or down.
"The tax rate doesn't go up, but the real estate assessments go up and so does the amount of money that residents pay," said Auerbach.
Julie Kerlin has lived in McLean since 1956. She does not use the community center often, but she has attended a few of the public budget workshops.
"There haven't been many people at the meetings that I've been to in the past," said Kerlin. "Most of the people that have been there are people who have an interest in a particular program –– I think the whole thing is kind of interesting."
It is not unusual for community centers to be funded through special real estate tax surcharges. The Reston Community Center is also funded through a special property tax collected on all residential and commercial properties in Small District 5. The Reston Community Center also collects internal revenues generated by program registration fees, box office receipts, gate admissions and facility rental fees.
In 2007, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors reduced the Small District 5 tax rate for Fiscal Year 2007 from $0.052 per $100 of assessed property value to $0.047 per $100 of assessed property value. The Board of Supervisors also reduced the size of Small District 5 by 274 parcels.
Julie Kerlin wonders if people even realize what they are paying for the McLean Community Center.
"What we pay for the community center comes for most people on their mortgage bill, and they don't look at it," said Kerlin. "I think a lot of people don't even know that it exists. The McLean Community Center budget is discussed in the fall, and the programs are discussed in the spring, but the candidates for the board don't even talk about the budget."