RCC Cuts Back its Budget Proposal

RCC Cuts Back its Budget Proposal

With the economy in a slump, RCC adjusts.

Coming on the heels of some budget missteps that led to a county-initiated audit, the Reston Community Center (RCC) Board of Governors unveiled its proposed fiscal year 2005 budget at a sparsely attended June 16 public hearing.

The RCC proposed budget of $6,029,885 represents a $214,000 decrease from the FY04 adopted budget, according to RCC documents. The FY04 budget will begin on July 1 of this year and the board will finalize its FY05 budget in September. Terry Smith, the chair of the program and policy committee, said that the proposed FY05 budget was put together "in response to the challenging economic circumstances affecting Fairfax County and Small District 5.”

“In confronting these economic realities, we do not want to see RCC programming either diminish or suffer," Smith said. "Rather, we strongly believe in the immense value that the current range of RCC programs brings to the Reston experience.”

Smith insisted the RCC board based its decisions on two economic factors, including the RCC recommended 13.3 percent tax cut enacted by the Board of Supervisors in 2002 for the special tax district. “With reduced revenues,” Smith said, “We are scaling our expenditures back accordingly.”

The revenue from Small District 5 is the center’s chief source of revenue, Marion Bonhomme-Knox, the RCC board treasurer and chair of the finance committee, said at Monday night’s meeting. Bonhomme-Knox said RCC anticipated only a $5,000 revenue decrease from FY04 levels.

The other factor, which is being felt countywide but especially in the Dulles corridor, is the effect of decreased commercial property assessments caused, in part, by the glut of empty office space in Northern Virginia. “Even though residential property assessments continue to increase, commercial property assessments in the tax district are either stagnant or decreasing,” Smith said. “Consequently, the net increase in tax revenue from residential and commercial property assessments is 5.19 percent, a substantial reduction from some of the double-digit annual revenue increases experienced during the boom times of the 1990s.”

RCC WOULD LOOK to help “improve delivery” of the center’s programs while increasing participation, Smith added. Of the nearly 1,700 “non drop-in” classes, workshops and trips sponsored by RCC in 2002, 82 percent of the “seats” were filled, RCC President Ruth Overton told the audience at the RCC’s Lake Anne facility.

Many of the most popular programs have waiting lists, Smith added.

“Clearly, you are telling us what you want, and in FY04 and FY05 we will look for new ways to increase capacity for these programs and to reduce or eliminate their wait lists,” Smith said. “In doing this, we will decrease the emphasis on new program expansion.”

In its budget presentation, the RCC board stressed the need to concentrate on its existing slate of programs while resisting adding additional programs or capital projects to its budget.

Smith noted that the board was dropping funding for a proposed skate park from the FY05 budget. The board will devote $12,000 toward a study of a “down-sized model of the skate park that we proposed to the community last year,” Smith said. “The down-sized model that the board now wishes to consider would have capital costs that are significantly lower [than $800,000],” Smith said. In response to a question from Dan Bishop, a West Market resident and frequent YMCA-site critic, Smith assured the audience that the study would not be “site-specific,” but he added that the board was still studying the exact scope of the study.

Addressing the board after its presentation, David Merrill of Reston, urged the members to not give up on the skate park idea, even if a more “affordable” alternative was located somewhere other than the YMCA site. “A dozen promises have come and gone,” Merrill said. “Let’s build a skate park we can be proud of. Please don’t give up, because we ain’t giving up any time soon.”

In fact, RCC is proposing only one new program initiative in its FY05 budget. The board is proposing allocating $15,000 for “potential RCC support of a Reston ‘First Night’ community event for New Year’s Eve 2004,” Smith said. According to a spokesman for the Reston Historic Trust, the organizers of the event, the First Night festivities would be in conjunction with Reston’s 40th birthday next year.

RCC is proposing only one capital project for its FY05 budget, a $200,000 expenditure to fix the center’s most utilized facility, its 24-year-old pool. The maintenance and renovation project is the first in what Smith described as a “substantial overhaul” in the RCC natatorium in the next several years.

In addition to the skate park, the RCC confirmed it was dropping two other capital projects — the South Lakes High School ‘Little Theater’ and the expansion of the RCC Lake Anne facility — from consideration. RCC ended negotiations with Fairfax County Public Schools about upgrading the South Lakes Theater into a community performing arts center. “Although our feasibility study found this concept would produce an outstanding future venue for community arts organizations, we were unable to develop an acceptable and reciprocal partnership agreement,” Smith said.

Smith also detailed the RCC’s decision not to expand its Lake Anne site into the 5,000 square feet of space adjacent to the current building currently owned by Robert Simon. Smith said the “build-out costs and recurring annual operating expenses” would be too great to justify the increased programming alternatives.

WHILE THERE ARE no capital projects planned, RCC does have more than $606,000 in its capital project reserve budget. That number, however, is down from $1 million at the end of the current fiscal year. It is this number that forced RCC to reconsider its proposed $800,000 skate park at the YMCA.

The capital project reserve account is part of the RCC managed reserve’s ending fund balance which is proposed to be nearly $1.3 million in FY05, down from more than $2.1 million in the year-end FY03. The capital reserve is expected to fall between $100,000 and $1 million each fiscal year. “It is designed to accrue funds for any future capital projects that the board would decided to undertake,” Bonhomme-Knox said.

RCC is currently in the process of spending down the “unreserved balance” through controlled deficit spending, the finance chair said. RCC does have the ability to submit “special requests” to the county after the budget is adopted, but not without public input and a public hearing, assured Overton.

As a way of off-setting the 13.3 percent tax cut, Overton, the board president, said it was important for the board to spend unreserved funds towards program delivery rather than simply carrying over the money, year-to-year. “We’ve found that the best way to get the most for your money is to actually use it,” Overton said. “As part of a designed deficit spending, we’ve expanded programming to work down the unreserved balances.”

Overton added the controlled deficit spending should be complete in “a couple of years.” The upcoming audit, prompted by the Teen Department running out of funds before the end of the fiscal year, will have no bearing on the ultimate budget, Overton assured the audience.