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Votes

General Assessment Remains Steady

Burke Centre Board of Trustees sets 2007 budget Nov. 9.

Citing unforeseen expenses and a desire to keep the status quo, the Burke Centre Board of Trustees voted to keep the general assessment at $118 for 2007.

The quarterly assessment could have decreased by about $2, but the trustees said the amount was too small to worry about. The extra cushion would also create a small buffer in the event of unexpected costs next year, such as extra snow and tree removal or maintenance costs. Patrick Gloyd, executive director of the Burke Centre Conservancy, said reasonable safeguards were taken when drafting the budget and general assessment, but surprises are always possible.

“I think the rest of the budget is nailed down pretty good,” said Gloyd. “It’s the unknown things … it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen.”

One trustee, Vice-President Jimi Grande, said if the money isn’t needed, it shouldn’t be collected. He proposed an amendment to the budget moving to lower the general assessment to $115.50, but the motion died when it did not receive support from his colleagues.

“If we don’t need it, we ought to give it back,” said Grande.

KEEPING THE ASSESSMENT as it was in 2006 does not alter people’s budgets, said Kala Quintana, the Woods neighborhood trustee. Another reason for keeping it the same is for future budgets, she said. The board typically anticipates small increases every couple of years, so keeping it steady also keeps the pace under control, she said.

“We like to be conscientious of people’s budgets, while also looking at the big picture,” she said.

Some attendees at the budget meeting did express concern about keeping the general assessment at $118. While $2 isn’t much, one resident said it’s better business to just lower the fee anyway.

“The problem with operating with surpluses is that you get a little sloppy,” said Mary Cortina, a Burke Centre resident. “I think having it cut to the zero-based budget is good operating procedure.”

The Woods Community Center is one major project slated for next year. Bids came in slightly lower than the $1.6 million originally estimated, said Gloyd, so it’s possible that money would be left over from the project. The $1.6 million has already been allocated for the project out of the Conservancy’s capital reserve funds, though, and would not affect the general assessment amount for 2007. The buffer amount, if one exists at the end of next year, would be put into the capital reserves fund and allocated as needed for special projects such as the Woods renovation. But the modest bids for the project don’t necessarily mean there will be excess money in the end, said Leon Rose, of the Conservancy’s budget and finance committee. He cited concerns for interior decorating costs and other non-construction-related costs.

“There’s a long time between the ground-breaking and the ribbon-cutting,” said Rose. “That $1.6 million may not hold when we get into it.”

Cluster assessments increased on average. Cluster money goes directly to improvements made within each of Burke Centre’s 65 clusters. That way residents can see how their money is spent right in their neighborhoods. The general assessments are just that: money allocated for general expenses affected the Conservancy as a whole. The Conservancy's zero-based budget for 2007 is $3,888,584.

BURKE CENTRE CONSISTS of more than 6,000 homes, but only 10 or so residents attended the 2007 budget approval meeting. Those who were there complimented and criticized the board for some of its operating procedures. Quintana said she wished more residents would take advantage of the process by communicating more with the board. She said that attending the monthly board meetings is one worthwhile way to participate in the process.

“They can say it right then and there; we absolutely listen to all resident input,” she said. “Its so hard to get people involved, unless they’re angry about something.”

Del. Dave Marsden (D-41) spoke at the beginning of the meeting and agreed that participating in the process, whether satisfied or angry, is how things get done.

"This is where some of the most important decisions are made," said Marsden. "This is the essence of what we are as a country."

Marsden spoke about concerns in the region, specifically transportation issues, and fielded questions from a handful of residents at the meeting. He said since Virginia has a state-run road system, getting things done at a local level becomes difficult. He also told a few frustrated residents that the outdated $0.17 state transportation tax no longer meets the region's transportation needs.